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973.7 H49s 



973.7 H49s 65-11046 
Hendxick Gift 
Statesmen of the lost cause 




rp f 







And His Cabinet 


Author of Thf Lees of Virginia and Bulwark of the Republic 


The Literary Guild of America, Inc. 








PROLOGUE ......... 3 




















4. THE FIRST CABINET . . . . . .104 



2. COLONEL JOHN PICKETT . . . . .117 







1. JUDAH P. BENJAMIN ...,.* 153 

2. CREOLE MARRIAGE . * . , . * 164 

3. "SMILING As USUAL" ...... 169 






2. WHITE GOLD . . * . . . .194 


4. THE COTTON FAMINE .,.** 208 










2. LORD JOHN RUSSELL .,,. 262 


4. THE BLOCKADE ..,*.. 270 



L JOHN SLIDELL *..... 283 






3. THE COLD SHOULDER , * m * ,314 





4. ZEBULON B. VANCE .... 342 







1. STEPHEN R, MALLORY ...... 363 

2. MEN BUT No SHIPS 369 












INDEX 441 



STATES Frontispiece 

Inauguration of Jefferson Davis as Provisional President of the 
Confederate States, February 18, 1861, at the state capitol, 
Montgomery, Alabama 

Provisional and Permanent President of the Confederate States 
of America 

The log cabin in Christian (now Todd) County, Kentucky, in 
which Jefferson Davis was born June 3, 1808 


Official residence of Mr. and Mrs. Davis during the Civil War 

ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS OF GEORGIA (1812-1883) . . . 76 
Vice President of the Confederate States of America 

ROBERT TOOMBS OF GEORGIA (1810*1885) , 76 

First Secretary of State of the Confederacy 

HOWELL COBB (1815-1868) ....... 77 

United States Senator, Secretary of the Treasury under Presi 
dent Buchanan and afterward a leading Secessionist in Georgia 

ROBERT M. T. HUNTER OF VIRGINIA (1809-1887) ... 77 
Secretary of State of the Confederacy from July, 1861, to 
February, 1862 

BENITO JUAREZ (1806-1872) 120 

The Indian who was President of Mexico at the outbreak of the 
American Civil War 

THOMAS CORWIN (1794-1865) ...... 120 

Senator from Ohio, Secretary of the Treasury under Fillmore, 
and United States Minister to Mexico 1861-1864 

First Confederate Commissioner to European countries 


Confederate Commissioner to Mexico, 1861-1862. The daguer 
reotype shows him in his uniform as colonel of the Lopez fili 
bustering expedition to Cuba in 1851 

JUDAH PHILIP BENJAMIN (18 1 1-1884) ..... 188 
Attorney General of the Confederacy, Secretary of War, and, 
from February, 1862, to the end, Secretary of State 

GEORGE W. RANDOLPH OF VIRGINIA (1818-1867) * . * 189 
Grandson of Thomas Jefferson. Secretary of War from March 
to November, 1862 


(1803-1888) ......... 189 

Confederate Secretary of the Treasury 

JAMES MURRAY MASON OF VIRGINIA (1798-1871) . * .258 
Confederate Commissioner to Great Britain 

JOHN SLIDELL (1793-1871) 258 

Son of New York City who became Confederate Commissioner 
to France 

VISCOUNT PALMERSTON (1784-1865) ..... 259 
Prime Minister of Great Britain during the American Civil 


LORD JOHN RUSSELL (1792-1878) ...... 259 

Foreign Secretary of Great Britain during the Civil War 

CHARLES Lours NAPOLEON BONAPARTE (1808-1873) , * 320 
Emperor of the French, 1852-1870, as Napoleon 111 

EUGENIBDE MONTIJO (1826-1920) . . 320 

Empress of the French by her marriage to Napoleon III, in 
1853. Her maternal grandfather was an American 

MAXIMILIAN (1832-1867) 321 

Archduke of Austria, "Emperor" of Mexico 

JOSEPH EMERSON BROWN (1821-1894) . 362 

Governor of Georgia, 1857-1885 

ZEBULON BAIRD VANCE (1830-1894) . . 362 

Governor of North Carolina, 1862-1865, afterward United 
States Senator 


JAMES A. SEDDON OF VIRGINIA (1815-1880) .... 363 
Secretary of War from November, 1862, to March, 1865 

STEPHEN R. MALLORY OF FLORIDA (c. 1813-1873) . . .363 
Secretary of the Confederate Navy for the whole period of the 



November 6. Abraham Lincoln elected President of the United States. 
December 20. South Carolina secedes from the Union. 


January 5. The Senators from Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, 
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, hold a meeting in the Capitol at Washing 
ton. They recommend that these states secede from the Union and or 
ganize a Southern Confederacy. Advise that a Convention for this 
purpose be held at Montgomery, Alabama, not later than February IS. 
A committee, consisting of Davis, Slidell, and Mallory, appointed to 
supervise the execution of this programme. 

January 9. Mississippi secedes. 

January 10, Florida secedes. 

January 11. Alabama secedes. 

January 19. Georgia secedes. Alexander H. Stephens, Linton Ste 
phens, and Herschel V. Johnson vote against Secession. 

January 26. Louisiana secedes. 

February 1. Texas secedes. 

February 4. Confederate Convention organizes at Montgomery, Ala 
bama, electing Howell Cobb President. 

February 9. The Convention at Montgomery adopts a Constitution 
of the Confederate States of America, modeled on that of the United 
States. It establishes a provisional government with Jefferson Davis 
President and Alexander H. Stephens Vice President. 

February 18. Jefferson Davis inaugurated President of the Confeder 
ate States of America. 

March 4* Abraham Lincoln inaugurated President of the United 

April 12. Fort Sumter fired upon. 

April 15. President Lincoln issues a proclamation, calling for 75,000 
volunteers to suppress insurrectionary "combinations." 

April 17. Virginia secedes. 

April 18. President Lincoln issues a proclamation, announcing the 
blockade of Southern ports. 


April 29. The Legislature of Maryland passes resolutions refusing 
to secede. 

May 2L North Carolina secedes* 

May 26. The Confederate Congress at Montgomery, Alabama, ad 
journs to meet at Richmond, Virginia, on July 20, 

June 8. Tennessee secedes* 

July 2L Battle of Bull Run. The Federal army, routed, retreats to 

July 26, Robert Toombs, Secretary of State, resigns* Robert M> T* 
Hunter appointed in his place. 

November 8. Captain Wilkes removes Mason and Slide!!, Confed 
erate Commissioners to Great Britain and France, from the British 
merchant ship Trent and deposits them as prisoners in Fort Warren, 
Boston Harbor. 

December 28. President Lincoln agrees to surrender Mason and 
Slidell to the British Government, 


January 19. Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky* Federal victory. 
General Zollicoffer, Confederate commander, killed* 

February 6. A fleet of Federal gunboats, under Flag Officer A, H, 
Foote, captures Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. 

February 8. Roanoke Island, North Carolina, captured by a com 
bined Federal military and naval expedition under General Burmide* 

February 16, Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland River, Kentucky, 
surrenders to the Federal forces under General Grant* 

February 22. Jefferson Davis, at Richmond, Virginia, inaugurated 
President of the Confederate States and Alexander H. Stephens Vice 
President, for terms of six years, On this day the permanent government 
of the Confederate States goes into effect* 

February 26. Nashville, Tennessee, occupied by the Federals* 

March 8. The Confederate ironclad Mtrrimac sails out of Norfolk 
Harbor and destroys the Federal warships Cumberland and Gonffrtsr* 
lying at the mouth of the James River. The Minnesota, Federal warship, 
runs aground at Newport News* 

March 9. The new Federal turreted warship, the Monitor* arrives 
at Hampton Roads and engages the Merrim&c* After four hours of 
fighting,, the Merrimac retires to Norfolk, having sustained serious 
injuries. It never fights again. 

March 14. Federals, under General Burnslde, capture New Bern, 
North Carolina. 


April 6 and 7. The Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee. Federals under Grant, 
Confederates under Albert Sidney Johnston and Beauregard. The first 
day the Confederates have the better of the struggle, but on the second 
reinforcements strengthen the Federals and the Confederates are 
forced to retreat to Corinth, Mississippi. Confederate Commander, Al 
bert Sidney Johnston, killed on first day's battle and succeeded by 

April 8. Federals capture Island No. 10, strategic point on the Missis 
sippi River. 

April 12. Fort Pulaski, Savannah, surrenders to the Federals. 

April 16. President Lincoln signs the bill emancipating slaves in the 
District of Columbia. 

April 24. Flag Officer Farragut passes the fortifications defending 
New Orleans. 

April 25. New Orleans surrenders. 

May 1. New Orleans taken possession of by Federal forces, under 
command of General Benjamin F. Butler, 

May 3. Confederates evacuate Yorktown, Virginia. 

May 5. Confederates defeated at Williamsburg, Virginia, 

May 11. Confederates sink the Merrimac at her anchorage at Craney 
Island, Virginia, to prevent the ship from falling into the hands of the 

May 24. Federals defeated by General (Stonewall) Jackson at "Win 
chester, Virginia, 

June 6. City of Memphis, Tennessee, surrenders to the Federals, 

June 26 July 2. Seven days' battles before Richmond. General 
Joseph E. Johnston having been wounded, General Robert E. Lee 
succeeds to the command of the Confederates, The result of the battles is 
a triumph for the Confederate cause. The Federal Peninsular cam 
paign a complete failure. General McClellan and the Union army 
forced to retreat to the James River, under the protection of Federal 

August 29, 30* Second Battle of Bull Run. Federals, under Pope, 

September 6. General Lee begins his invasion of Maryland. 

September 17. Battle of Antietam, Maryland. Lee's army is repulsed, 
and forced to retreat to Virginia. His attempted invasion of the North 
a failure. 

September 22. Lincoln issues his preliminary Emancipation Procla 

December 13. Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Federals, un 
der General Burnside, repulsed and forced to retreat. 


December 31. Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Rosecrans com 
manding Federals and Braxton Bragg the Confederates. Confederates 
at first successful; but three days later Bragg attacks again* is defeated 
and compelled to retreat. 


January 7. Lincoln issues his Emancipation Proclamation declaring 
free all slaves in states and parts of states then in "rebellion^ against 
the Federal Government. 

May 2-4. Battle of Chancellorsville, Federals defeated. Stonewall 
Jackson killed. 

July 3. End of three-day battle of Gettysburg. Federal victory. 

July 4. Vicksburg surrenders to General Grant 

July 9. Port Hudson, on the Mississippi, surrenders to the Federals. 
This gives the Union complete control of the Mississippi and splits the 
Confederacy in two. 

September 19-2L Battle of Chickamauga- Confederate victory. 

November 23-25. Battle of Chattanooga. Federal victory* 


March L Grant becomes Lieutenant General, in command of al! the 
armies of the United States. 

May 5-6. Battle of the Wilderness, Virginia* Grant starts his cam 
paign against Lee, The result indecisive* 

May 11-12. The "Bloody Angle" of Spottsylvania, 

June 3. Battle of Cold Harbor. Federals, under Grant, repulsed 
with great loss. 

June 13-18. Grant crosses the James, taking up headquarters at City 

June 18. Grant begins siege of Petersburg* Virginia* 

June 27. Battle of Kenesaw Mountain. Sherman fails to carry 
Johnston's position. On July 2> however, Johnston abandons Kenesaw 
and retreats to the Chattahoochee- 

July 18. Sherman crosses the Chtttahoochee and begins his move 
ment against Atlanta. President Davis removes Johnston and appoints 
General J. B. Hood in his place. 

August 5. Farragut reduces the forts in Mobile Bay, Alabama. 

September 2. Sherman captures Atlanta, Georgia, and starts on his 
March to the Sea. 


'November S. Lincoln reelected President. 
December 20. Sherman captures Savannah, Georgia. 


February 18. Sherman captures Charleston, South Carolina. 

March 23. Sherman captures Goldsborough, North Carolina, and 
forms a junction with Schofield. 

April L Federals, under Sheridan, fight battle of Five Forks. A 
Confederate disaster. 

April 2. Grant breaks through Lee's defenses at Petersburg. Con 
federates in flight, with Federals pursuing. 

April J. Federals enter Richmond and find the city in flames, the 
work of Confederate mobs. Davis and his Cabinet in flight. 

April 9* Lee surrenders to Grant at Appornattox Court House, Vir 

April 14. Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. 

April 26. General Johnston surrenders his army to General Sherman 
at Durham, North Carolina. The war at an end. 



THIS volume on the Southern effort in the Civil War has at 
least one novel feature. It says practically nothing about 
military leaders. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart, Joseph 
E. Johnston these, the usually dominating characters in 
books on the Confederacy, appear only occasionally in the 
following pages. The fact is commonly forgotten that the 
South possessed civic as well as military figures. It had a gov 
ernment as well as an army. Yet the civilian side has so far 
attracted little attention from historians. Perhaps the South 
itself is to blame for this neglect. Significantly Its hero of that 
conflict to-day is Robert E. Lee, not Jefferson Davis. Just as 
significantly the hero of the North is Abraham Lincoln and not 
Grant or Sherman. Probably few Americans at the present 
time could name more than two or three of the seventeen 
Southerners who served in the Davis Cabinet, while Seward, 
Stanton, Chase, Welles, and other political captains of the 
Union are among the most familiar portraits in our national 

Thus does the popular mind, working instinctively, perhaps 
subconsciously, arrive at a great historic truth. For the fact that 
the North emphasizes statesmanship in the Civil War and the 
South military achievement goes far to interpreting the events 
of 1861-1865. In particular, it may answer a question much 
debated in that era and since. Why did the South lose the war? 
Historians on both sides have had a ready explanation for this 
failure. There is now general agreement that the Southern cause 
was doomed from the start. The Union's superiority in popula 
tion and wealth is the commonly accepted reason for its success. 
In view of the virtual consensus on this point, it is interesting 


to glance back at opinion contemporary with the Civil War f 
especially that of Europe, In 1861 and for at least the two 
succeeding years, European observers also regarded the end as 
foreordained. Only the judgment of England and the Continent 
differed from the one almost generally held to-day. In the eyes 
of Europe in 1861-1863, the North was the side destined in 
evitably to defeat. Not only military experts, but statesmen, 
held this conviction. On it the whole diplomatic policy of 
Europe on "the American question" was constructed. The 
Federal Union of the fathers was at an end, Two republics 
at least would occupy the area formerly ruled by one; not im 
probably, four, five, or even more independent nations would 
rise on the ruins of the Federal Union, thus creating a political 
system in the northern half of the Western Hemisphere not 
unlike that which for fifty years had raised havoc in South 

What was the reason that the statesmen, diplomats, journal 
ists, and historians of England and the Continent took this 
portentous view of the American Civil War? Why did they 
regard a Confederate triumph as inherent in the nature of the 
case? Merely because, as they interpreted history. Uncle Sam 
had undertaken an impossible military task. Many nations had 
assumed such problems in the past, and almost all had failed* 
The circumstance that the North outnumbered the South in 
population, the fact that its domestic wealth and commerce 
exceeded those of the Confederacy, did not seem to these 
experienced observers the ultimate considerations* Indeed* in 
face of the respective problems confronting the two parties* it 
was not certain that Northern power so greatly surpassed that 
of the South. In an absolute sense, of course, the Federal 
Government unquestionably counted more men, and com 
manded more rescurces, than its adversary. But surface ratios 
like these did not necessarily determine events. The military 
problems of the two sides were very different, and would have 
to be weighed in estimating their relative physical might* The 


fight was an unequal one, if considered merely from the stand 
point of men and materials; here the North clearly possessed 
the advantage. It was similarly unequal, from the standpoint 
of military strategy, and here the South just as unmistakably 
wielded the upper hand, 

No one knows, and probably never will know, just how many 
men fought in the Civil War. The Confederacy kept no 
statistics of any value, and those of the Federal Government, 
superficially more precise, involve many repetitions. Reliable 
figures on the population of the two sections exist, and these 
usually do unwarranted service in attempts to arrive at their 
respective military strength. In 1860, the states that after 
ward formed the Confederacy had roughly 9,000,000 souls; 
those that remained loyal to the Union and contributed to its 
man power Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, must be 
eliminated from the calculation 19,000,000* The figures 
for the South, it is true, comprise 4,000,000 negroes, but these, 
from the first, increased its military power, for they could 
provide a service as teamsters, cooks, workers on entrenchments 
and fortifications labor that white recruits performed In 
the Federal army. Negroes also gave the South its supply of 
laborers and farmers at home, thus freeing the Anglo-Saxon 
population for military service. Moreover, the blacks com 
prised a reserve for possible soldiers at the front; the idea of 
using them for this purpose, naturally revolting to Southern 
instincts, appealed from the first to many farseeing leaders. 
In the last two years, General Lee favored the enlistment of 
colored troops, and in March, 1865, Jefferson Davis himself 
.advocated a bill for such enlistments. The Confederate Con 
gress passed this measure in March, 1865, a few weeks before 
Lte's surrender. 

It is therefore fair to say that the proportion of Northern 
to Southern men available for war service stood at about two 
to one. In view of the military problems confronting the two 
sides, this indicates a proportion rather in favor of the Davis 


Government. The point is that the North was fighting on the 
offensive, the South on the defensive. The North was the in 
vader; the South was engaged In repelling Its invasion* 
Abraham Lincoln was waging a war of conquest* and Jefferson 
Davis was struggling to rcpe! the attack* One side was en 
croaching on an unfamiliar country, comprising a vast terri 
torial extent and a hostile people, and the other was standing 
firmly on its own friendly soil, could fight on positions of its 
own selection, and was engaged in no real effort to subdue the 
enemy, but merely to beat him off. It is a truism of the military 
art that success in offensive warfare requires a great superiority 
in men. The usual estimate places this at three to one* u The 
numerical preponderance of the North, 11 says a leading English 
authority, Sir Frederick Maurice, in his book on Robert B* 
Lee, "was for the purposes of war far less than would appear 
from an examination of the election returns,** The same au 
thority places the proportion of North to South at five to 
three somewhat under the two to one estimate above, 
and considerably inferior to the three to one usually regarded 
as necessary In offensive warfare. 

The performance of the South which the world so greatly 
admired that of holding, with half the population, the 
North at bay for two years was no new phenomenon. Such 
exploits are found in all ages* Illustrations In plenty spring at 
once to mind. One thinks of the Greeks against the Persians; 
the little island of Queen Elizabeth against the mighty realm 
of Philip II; the Netherlands against Spain; Frederick the 
Great in the eighteenth century against the combined powers 
of Europe; the American colonies in 1776 against Great 
Britain. A striking case was that of 1792, when the ragamuffin 
soldiers of the French Revolution defeated and dispersed the 
finely equipped forces of Prussia and Austria, far outnumbering 
them. The battle of Valmy bears a certain resemblance to Bull 
Run, and it was the first step in that conquest of most of 
Europe ultimately achieved by Napoleon- Perhaps our own 


time supplies the most astounding instance, that of the two 
Boer republics of South Africa, with a population of 200,000, 
resisting the might of Great Britain (45,000,000) and its 
world empire for four years, from 1898 to 1902. All these 
powers, like the United States in 1861-1865, were invaders, 
engaged in conquest, fighting a people numerically weaker, but 
brave and determined, fiercely employed in the desperate task 
of defending their own firesides. 

The courage and ability of the Southern armies aroused the 
admiration of their foes; that Southern generalship, at least 
in the first two years, surpassed that of the North, stands upon 
the surface; other facts than an Inferiority in military strength 
must therefore hold the secret of Confederate failure. We 
shall probably find it rather in civil than In military affairs. Had 
statesmen ruled Its domestic and foreign policies with the same 
skill that Lee and other generals guided Its armies, the result 
might have easily been very different. In one respect this asser 
tion may look like a reversal of history. Statesmanship was a 
quality on which the South had always prided Itself. Its politi 
cal thinkers had played a leading role In framing the Constitu 
tion. For nearly forty years following 1789 it gave the Union 
its Presidents. For most of the thirty years preceding the 
Civil War the South had governed the nation in all three de 
partments. It seems strange, therefore, that at the supreme 
test of 1861-1865 this region should so disastrously fail in 
that statesmanship which it had always regarded as almost its 
exclusive possession. But perhaps there is a solution to the 
mystery* It may be found in the particular South that organized 
the Confederacy and plunged the nation into war. The fact to 
be kept always in mind is that the South which started the 
Confederacy, and dominated its government for four years, 
was not the South that wrote the Declaration of Independence, 
played so important a role in framing the Constitution, and 
provided so much leadership for the United States in its earliest 


There is still too great a tendency to romanticize the u lost 
cause," to picture it as an uprising of the "chivalry of the 
South," and to regard its leaders as a gathering of traditional 
"Southern aristocrats." Really, the Confederate States of 
America rose in a region as recently frontier in character as 
the West that produced Abraham Lincoln. Of the seven states 
that formed the Montgomery Government, only two South 
Carolina and Georgia had existed in 1787. The soil of 
Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, and a considerable 
section of Mississippi at that time were still parts of the 
Spanish empire. The Southern commonwealth chiefly famous 
for statesmen Virginia had no hand in organizing the 
Confederacy. Neither had North Carolina or Tennessee* other 
states distinguished for political leadership in the Union. 
These older states came in three months afterward, for 
particular reasons; they had no part In framing the Southern 
constitution, in organizing the government, and had little to 
do in the civil department for four years of war* Thus old- 
fashioned "Southern chivalry," and old-time "Southern aristo-* 
crats" were scarcely represented In the civic empire of Jefferson 
Davis at the outset It was the creation of a new South that, in 
social amenities and in political wisdom, hardly resembled the 
South of history and legend. The new-rich Southwest con 
tributed the political leaders, the old traditional South the 
military captains. Of the five Confederate generals who won 
world-wide fame Lee, Jackson* Stuart, Joseph E Johnston* 
Longstreet four most suggestively were sons of Virginia j 
Longstreet came from Georgia, also a state of the old South. 
That is to say the leaders who gave the Confederacy prestige 
were mostly Virginians of superior breed, while the cotton belt 
was the region that provided the politicians who failed* 

Probably the critic completely imbued with the spirit of 
the ancient southland would find little difficulty in solving the 
mystery. His explanation would be tinged with a snobbishness 
offensive to a democratic age. He would be thinking of "family 1 * 


and "tradition," and insisting on the right of certain well 
born classes to serve the state. Such an old James River patri 
cian, looking upon the company of public men who dominated 
the Confederacy, would have found little to recall the ancient 
regime. The kind of Southern leadership that had gained the 
upper hand by 1861 hardly resembled that of tobacco-growing 
Virginia and Carolina; it was, to use a word made familiar in 
recent years, bourgeois, even Philistine. It was a land of newly 
acquired wealth, not particularly well-mannered or cultured, 
but pushing, self-assertive, and arrogant. Nor was this new 
country exclusively Southern, for the hordes that had rushed 
into the cotton El Dorado of the Southwest were composed 
not only of quick-fortune-hunting sons of Dixie Land, but of 
adventurers from the North and New England. These were 
the elements that gave rise to the Confederacy and provided 
its civic leaders. Merely to catalogue the most important of 
these chieftains shows how the insurgent South, in its social 
and economic aspects, differed from the land of Washington 
and Jefferson. The President of the Confederate States of 
America was born in a log cabin. The Vice President spent his 
early days as "corn dropper" on his father's slaveless farm 
and chore boy in tasks ordinarily assigned to negroes. The 
Secretary of State at least the one who filled that office 
for most of the war was the son of the keeper of a dried* 
fish shop in London. The Secretary of the Treasury, born in 
Germany, spent his childhood in a Charleston orphanage. 
The Secretary of the Navy, son of a Connecticut Yankee, 
started life as assistant to his widowed mother in running a 
sailor's boardinghouse in Key West, Florida. The Postmaster 
General, son of a tanner, had for a time engaged in an occupa 
tion that made any man a social outcast in the South that 
of plantation overseer. The Confederacy's ablest diplomat was 
not Southern in origin; born in New York City, he was the son 
of a tallow chandler, and had in his early days followed that 
trade himself. If the cabinet occasionally enlisted men of more 


pretentious stock, all of these recruits, with one exception 
Seddon of Virginia occupied their posts for very brief 
periods, and all were failures. 

As intimated above, a democratic generation does not look 
upon beginnings of this kind as disqualifying men for eminent 
careers and high-minded service to the state. The only reason 
the point is insisted on in this place is to show that a new South* 
displacing the old in political dominance, had risen In the forty 
years preceding the Civil War and that the Confederacy was 
its creation. Probably the political philosopher would find 
an even more significant study in the effect exercised upon the 
Davis experiment by the constitutional ideas that formed Its 
reason for existence. State Sovereignty, the Right of Secession 
these were the foundation stones on which this new nation 
was built. They had provided the theme of impassioned argu 
ment for seventy-five years. Now at last Southern statesmen 
had before them the opportunity of testing the worth of these 
principles in the practical conduct of a government Was a 
nation possible composed of independent units, each claiming 
to be a "sovereign state," joined to a central power only by 
the loosest ties? Could a Confederacy assert the authority 
necessary to vital existence in which each "sovereign republic* 1 
asserted the right to withdraw at will? The Federalists and 
Hamiltonians had always objected to Jeffersonism on pragmatic 
grounds; such theories were preposterous simply because they 
would not work. They could produce no orderly society 
only chaos. The failure of Davis and his colleagues has an im 
portant bearing on this point It seems to prove that the 
"consolidationists" had the practical argument on their side. 
Southern students of the Civil War are coming, more and 
more, to accept this point of view. One of the most scholarly 
of these, Professor Frank JL Owsley, of Vanderbilt Uni 
versity, has probably said the final word on the subject, "There 
is an old saying that the seeds of death arc sown at our birth. 
This was true of the Southern Confederacy, and the seeds of 


death were state rights. The principle on which the South 
based its actions before 1861 and on which it hoped to base 
its future government was its chief weakness. If a monument 
is ever erected as a symbolical gravestone over the lost cause* 
it should have engraved upon it these words: 'Died of State 
Rights.' " 

Thus the Confederacy failed for two reasons. It produced 
no statesmen, such as the South had produced in the revolu 
tionary crisis of 1776 and afterward. It was also founded on a 
principle that made impossible the orderly conduct of public 
affairs. The purpose of the present volume is to study the 
statesmanship and diplomacy of this new Southern generation 
and to study it in the biographies of the characters who reigned 
in the time of America's most tragic crisis* 



ONE of the several paradoxes in the career of Jefferson Davis 
is that he should have passed Into history as the typical 
"Southern aristocrat," the appropriate successor* In founding 
a new Southern nation, to the Virginians who played so great 
a role in establishing the American Union* The truth is that in 
birth and early environment Davis was as much of a frontiers 
man as Abraham Lincoln* The Northern President, in fact, 
had a much longer background of rough-and-ready American 
ism than had his Southern rivaL In 1861 the Lincolns had been 
Americans for seven generations, the Davises for only four. 
Father Abraham came of an English family that had settled in 
Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1637* while Jefferson Davis was 
the grandson of a Welshman who emigrated to Philadelphia 
in the first year of the eighteenth century- Both families, it will 
be observed, began their American existence in the North, 
and, after wanderings that extended over a century and a half, 
set up domiciles in the new state of Kentucky* The Davis gens 
started in Pennsylvania, paused for a generation in Georgia, 
then passed on to Christian County now Todd in the 
land of Daniel Boone, and built the log cabin at Fairview in 
which the future Confederate President was born* June 3, 
1808. The Lincolns advanced by slower stages from Massa 
chusetts to Pennsylvania, to Virginia, and then to the neigh 
borhood of Hodgenville, Kentucky, and erected the log cabin 
in which, on February 12, 1809, the Emancipator first saw 
light. These two primitive structures were about one hundred 
and twenty miles apart It is not likely, in view of the system 
of transportation existing at this time, that the Davis and the 


Lincoln families ever met, but there was nothing in their 
circumstances which would have made neighborly relations 

Mrs. Davis prefixes to the Memoir' 1 of her husband a 
picture of his birthplace a homestead that hardly suggests 
a Stratford Hall, a Westover, a Mount Vernon, or any of the 
other famous memorials of the aristocratic South. It is frankly 
a log cabin, slightly larger and more pretentious than Lincoln's, 
but still redolent of the forest. To present-day Americans a 
log cabin is a log cabin, but, in reality, there were as many 
varieties in this pioneer form of American architecture as in 
more ambitious orders. Lincoln's place of nativity had advanced 
beyond the three walls the fourth side open to the winds 
without door or other flooring than that of mother earth, 
which represented the beginning in a noble type of residence ; 
it was completely closed, its logs were chinked with clay, it 
possessed a regular hinged opening and possibly a glazed 
window, to say nothing of a stick chimney. The house of 
Samuel Davis, Jefferson's father, had advanced one degree 
beyond the Lincolnian model. It consisted of two rooms; it 
was, in fact, two separate log cabins, each with its own outside 
chimney, connected by a passageway, the whole enclosed under 
a common roof. To what extent this symbolized a loftier scale 
of living, experts in such discriminations must decide. There is 
another sign of a slightly higher social plane in favor of Davis, 
for his father, in addition to unprofitable tobacco planting, 
engaged in breeding horses and blooded racing animals at 
that. But, in the leveling gaze of contemporaries, there would 
probably have been no distinctions drawn between the two 
families. The fathers of Lincoln and Davis were unsuccessful 
men; both had the habit of pulling up stakes and tempting 
fortune in new situations. The biographers of Abraham 
Lincoln have discovered far more about his progenitor than 

1 Jefferson Davis, Ex-President of The Confederate States of America} a Memoir^ by- 
tea wife, 2 vols. 1890. 


have students of Jefferson Davis about his father Samuel, but 
it is safe to say that in circumstances, in standing, in the general 
tenor of their lives, they represented about the same stage of 
progress* Both were sober-living, honest, industrious if not 
overthrifty yeomen, and neither would have impressed his 
neighbors as likely to produce a son destined to play a great 
role in his country's history- 
While in origin Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln 
started on fairly even terms, circumstances* in childhood and 
youth, became far more favorable for the Southerner, Life 
bestowed on him one gift that Lincoln had been denied- That 
was an ambitious and successful older brother, Moreover, 
the difference in age between Jefferson and Joseph Emory 
Davis was so great twenty-four years that the position 
this elder brother occupied was practically that of a father. 
And it was Joseph Davis who lifted the family from obscurity 
and made it one of the foremost in Mississippi* Thus Jefferson 
Davis remembered little of the hardships that formed the 
lot of the pioneer. Of the early Kentucky log cabin he had no 
recollection. The family abandoned this home when the future 
statesman was still an Infant, and started, with the usual ap 
paratus of early American travel, wagons, horses, cattle* a 
negro or two, and a family of ten children, Jefferson being 
the youngest, through previously unpenetrated forests and 
swamps, on a six-month trek, crossing Kentucky, Tennessee, 
Mississippi, at that time almost unsettled, and not yet a 
state, until it finally came to a halt in Bayou Teche* south* 
eastern Louisiana. Of this home, notable for its absence of 
prosperity and the constant menace of "chills and fever,* 1 
Davis also had no remembrance, for, after a year or two, 
the family again struck camp, and crossed the great river Into 
southwest Mississippi. Here, at Woodville, the elder Davis 
at last found his home, and it is here that Jefferson Davis's 
childhood consciousness begins. But here again* his memories 
are not extensive or deep-seated. The Davis family itself had 


lit : it It! 




found a permanent resting place, but the youngest child had 
not. He remained until his seventh year, obtaining such rudi 
mentary instruction as was possible in a log-cabin school. 

This section of the Mississippi delta is one in which such 
sanitary forces as the Rockefeller Board have recently beep 
active. From time immemorial it has been the breeding ground 
of contagious disease malaria, yellow fever, dysentery, 
hookworm. That the boy Jefferson was a sickly child is there 
fore not surprising. Here he laid the basis of that ill-health 
which pursued him to the end. This may have been the reason 
why he was sent back to his native Kentucky for his education. 
Not improbably he had also begun to display mental qualities 
that were deemed worthy of better cultivation than the 
Mississippi backwoods could provide. Unquestionably the 
determining influence was Joseph Davis, who had already be 
gun to display pride in his "little Jeff." From all accounts that 
have come down of Davis at this time and for several years 
afterward, he was precisely the kind of boy in whom an 
elder brother of benevolent character would take delight. 
Jefferson was handsome and intelligent; his large blue eyes, 
thick brown hair, and finely shaped forehead, his erect, manly 
carriage, winning manners, amiability of temper, and honor 
able conduct, as well as an early manifested interest in study, 
held forth the promise, if not of a distinguished career, at 
least of a worthy one. Fortunately for the boy, his brother's 
success came at exactly the right moment. After a preparatory 
law course in Kentucky, Joseph Davis moved to Natchez, 
opened a law office, and secured a sufficiently gainful practice 
to lay the foundation of his real career as cotton planter. He 
acquired a large estate on the Mississippi, about twenty miles 
south of Vicksburg, which rapidly yielded a substantial fortune. 
The elevation of the Davis family now became an ambition as 
keenly pursued as the heaping up of wealth, and in realizing 
this programme the training of "little brother" was an essential 
detail. Thus Jefferson Davis, in his opportunities, his equip- 


rnent of ideas, and political and constitutional convictions, was 
the achievement of this masterful and successful brother, 
generally esteemed the richest man in Mississippi, and In many 
ways the state's leading citizen* 

The result was that Jefferson received a far better education 
than his brothers and sisters; far better, indeed, than fell to the 
lot of most boys In that undeveloped country* He certainly 
enjoyed far greater chances than fell to the lot of Abraham 
Lincoln. In consequence he grew up to be a polished gentleman, 
whereas Lincoln, in outward bearing at least, always carried 
the rustic quality with which he started life. Still, there was 
a haphazard character in Davis's scholastic career, and this 
is important in explaining the man's political views and 
allegiances. It was not the kind of experience that focused the 
boy's interest in any one Southern state; it made him rather 
a devotee of the South as a whole* It took him, at the most 
impressionable period, into several commonwealths* and 
brought him under a variety of influences. There was a log- 
cabin school in Mississippi until his seventh birthday; two 
years were spent in an academy in Lexington, Kentucky, main 
tained by the Dominican fathers; four years again in Missis 
sippi, part of the time in a Iog-*cabin school and part at a local 
institution kept by a clergyman from Boston ; then two years 
at Transylvania College in Kentucky, followed by four years 
at West Point a variety of residences, and a variety of in 
structors, ranging from old-fashioned schoolmasters to Catho 
lic priests, New England scholars, and the miscellaneous staff 
at the Military establishment All this might be expected to 
exercise a cosmopolitan influence on a receptive mind* Just how 
much learning Jefferson picked up in these wanderings Is not 
clean According to Mrs. Davis, the young man emerged from 
the experience with the ability "to read Latin well/ 1 some 
knowledge of Greek, and the traditional training in mathe 
matics and "natural philosophy" ; it was the routine education 
of the day, and though Davis made no reputation as a scholar, 


he probably acquired more culture than most young Americans 
of the time. 

In the matter of general literature his reading does not 
seem to have been extensive; at least, his writings show no 
familiarity with great authors, though they do indicate more 
than a cursory knowledge of American history, especially in 
its economic and constitutional departments. Davis's real edu 
cation was not acquired under the lamp; it came afterward, 
as will appear and again as a gift from the ever-attentive 
brother. But these early experiences left other traces than the 
purely mental. They gave the young man a wider acquaintance 
with the American nation than the average Southerner of his 
period received. In his last days Davis dictated an account of 
his itinerant preparation for life. 2 Significantly he recalls not 
so vividly his schools and teachers as the journeys that gave the 
background of the educational process. Greek and algebra did 
not leave such a lasting image as the trips, on pony back, from 
Mississippi, through Tennessee to Kentucky and return; trips 
that took several weeks, and included first-hand inspection of 
the wilderness, with its forests, it rivers, its Indians, its white 
pioneers, its camps in the open, its glimpses of flatboats on 
the Mississippi the one way of river transportation. Several 
weeks spent with Andrew Jackson at the Hermitage Jack 
son then famous for the battle of New Orleans, with his 
Presidency still nearly fifteen years ahead left more per 
manent marks than did the schoolroom. Of chief importance, 
in its influence on Davis's life, was the varying picture which 
these early days gave him of the South. Significantly, the 
young man continued those Southern pilgrimages that had 
marked his father's existence. The elder Davis had lived in 
four Southern states Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and 
Mississippi; the young man became as familiar with Tennessee 
and Kentucky as with Mississippi. Thus it was the South as 

2 Published in Mrs. DaviVs Memoir , Vol. I, Chapters I-IV. There is also a brief auto 
biography in 0unbar Rowland's Jeferson Davis, Constitutionalist^ Vol. I, pp. xx-xxxi. 


a region rather than any particular state that formed his 
Southern background. Jefferson Davis, indeed, reached his 
thirtieth year before he became identified with any one com 
munity; the man who prided himself on being the most con 
spicuous spokesman of State rights had well advanced into man 
hood before he could claim any single state as his own. 
Quite different this, from the experience of the typical Vir 
ginian or Carolinian, to both of whom concentration on a 
definite commonwealth, or "country," as they called it, was 
the rule of being. 

From the day that he left Kentucky, in 1824, to his return 
as a mature man to Mississippi in 1835, Davis continued this 
far from provincial career- Four years at West Point, on the 
Hudson, seven as an army officer in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, 
and Missouri here again the experience was national in its 
tendencies rather than particular* The first time Davis appears 
in the story as a well-defined character is the period spent at 
West Point The picture on the whole is a pleasing one, though 
it does contain a few shadows -the very traits that warped 
the man's outlook as a statesman* Again we have reminiscences 
of the erect, handsome figure, with its springy step, its soldier 
like bearing; of the finely shaped head, the meditative blue 
eyes, the sharp but symmetrical features; and there are 
references in plenty to the courtesy, the cheerfulness, the ever- 
present dignity that embellished the young man's daily life* It 
is also true that he was a little remote, not given to participating 
in sports except dancing and riding, for his absorption in 
horses was worthy of his Kentucky birth* Neither are there 
many indications of a sense of humor or of lightheartedness; 
his companions afterward recalled that Davis was at times 
"taciturn," and there are early suggestions of that "arrogance* 1 
and "hauteur," that complete self-confidence and satisfaction 
with his own opinions which assumed greater prominence as 
the years wore on. He was not easily companionable and his 
bearing, on the whole, was serious. So far as official records 


indicate, Davis made no great success in scholarship; he was 
graduated twenty-third out of a class of thirty-three; and in 
deportment he did not achieve the impeccable rank of his 
fellow student, Robert E. Lee, who weathered the four years 
without a single demerit. Davis indeed acquired many black 
marks a few more would have ruined his army career. 
Certain episodes give a more fallible portrait than the gen 
eralizations of his associates. His behavior on one or two 
occasions almost resulted in dismissal. An undue fondness for 
"Benny's Tavern/' a drinking place surreptitiously favored by 
cadets, led to a court-martial, Davis escaping expulsion only 
on the ground of his previous good behavior. West Point was 
the scene of his first quarrel with Joseph E. Johnston, after 
ward general in the Confederate Army. This early altercation 
rose, not over military strategy, but romance, for Davis and 
Johnston became rivals for the affections of a "tavern keeper's 
daughter," finally settling their disagreement with their fists. 
According to legend Johnston proved the better man, and thus 
Davis, at an early age, suffered one of those "mental wounds" 
which, according to the modern psychologist, can so profoundly 
affect a man's whole life and even influence history. If this was 
indeed the germ of that hatred with which Davis pursued 
Johnston in after life, the "tavern keeper's daughter" at West 
Point may be one of those obscure characters who determine 
great events, for Davis's hostility to Johnston is usually re 
garded as one of the causes that led the Confederacy to 


The seven years from 1828 to 1835 Davis spent as a lieu 
tenant in the army of the United States. The story of this 
period, so far as exploits are concerned, is the familiar one of 
life at Western military posts ; there was the usual amount of 
Indian fighting, fort building, scouting, simple social existence, 


that made up life in the undeveloped country. The Black 
Hawk War, in which the young officer played a creditable 
part, to him was assigned the honor of 'conducting this cele 
brated Indian fighter, as war prisoner, from his native soil 
to Jefferson Barracks, Saint Louis, was the one event of 
the time that cuts much figure in the history books* But prob 
ably the routine of army existence had a greater influence on 
Davis's character than on the average graduate of West Point 
Most commentators make much of his confidence in himself as 
a military expert; some trace the military decline of the Con 
federacy to his constant interference with his generals, his 
tendency to accept literally the Presidential duty as commander 
in chief. But not improbably his field service under Uncle Sam 
Influenced his character in more subtle fashion. It tended to 
strengthen a natural rigidity of will and thought. Davis was 
always more concerned with the formalities of life than with 
its flexibilities- Thinking and living by rote handicapped him as 
a politician and statesman. He adopted certain principles and 
certain rules of conduct* and sought to make all his opinions 
and acts fit into these patterns. This human difference between 
Davis and his future adversary Is Illustrated by their attitude 
towards this Black Hawk Wan Abraham Lincoln served as 
captain of a kind of Mulligan's guard In this not particularly 
heroic struggle; in after life he seemed to retain memories only 
of its ridiculous aspects; he liked to describe the blood he had 
sacrificed for his country* most of It abstracted by huge 
swarms of mosquitoes and his fierce onslaughts on wild* 
onion beds. But all the comments of Davis are serious. And his 
attitude toward the army was similarly respectful, fairly rever 
ential. Something in the experience harmonized with his own 
nature. Davis loved routine, definite organization, obedience, 
deference to superiors, authority, gradation In position; he 
liked to frame premises and draw from them the logical con* 
sequences. Army life stimulated these tendencies and really 
caked the man's mind into fixed habits- To give orders and 


have them obeyed; to look up to superiors and to keep those 
of lower rank in their appropriate place; to have ideas and 
deeds follow each 6ther in precise regulation such was his 
natural disposition, and army experience did much to inten 
sify it* 

Not that his service was empty of more "humane" experi 
ences. In fact, it included the episode that formed nearly the 
most tragic chapter in a life that was full of tragedies. And 
nothing sheds more light upon the man's personal side than 
his romance with Sarah Knox Taylor. It reveals Davis in his 
several phases his loyalty, his devotion, his capacity for giv 
ing and inspiring affection, as well as his tenacity, his fierceness 
of temper, and his capacity for arousing antagonisms in others. 
Those inclined to regard the man as all austerity and fixations 
should study his relations with Miss Taylor and her stormy 
sire. She was the petite, blue-eyed, brown-haired daughter of 
old "rough and ready" Zachary the same gentleman who, 
fifteen years afterward, became twelfth President of the United 
States. In 1832 this future hero of Buena Vista was colonel of 
the First Infantry, and, as such, in command of Fort Craw 
ford, near Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, where one of his sub 
ordinate officers was the twenty-four-year-old Lieutenant Davis. 
Naturally the home of the commandant was the social centre 
of a community that offered little chance for diversion; and 
inevitably Taylor's three sprightly daughters Anne, Sarah 
Knox, and Betty became the lodestars of the junior officers. 
That Knox Taylor she was always called by her middle 
name, given her, strangely enough, in honor of Washington's 
first Secretary of War and Jefferson Davis should promptly 
fall in love caused some surprise, for the girl was as gay and 
witty and carefree as the Mississippian was matter of fact and 
thoughtful; but of the intensity of the emotion, on both sides, 
there were plenty of evidences. 

Ordinarily the affair should have gone pleasantly enough. 
To most Southern parents, Jefferson Davis would have seemed 


an eminently acceptable son-in-law. He was handsome, his 
manners were highbred, his life was correct, he was well* 
educated, he had all the prudential qualities that make a re 
sponsible husband; besides, Jefferson's brother Joseph had 
already lifted the Davis family to front rank in Mississippi. 
But Taylor displayed a most unreasoning and implacable hos 
tility to the match. All the arguments of daughter* wife, and 
brother officers at the Fort could not reconcile him to the mar 
riage, Several explanations have been offered for this opposi 
tion, but none are satisfactory. The one on which most empha 
sis has been laid is Zachary's own that he did not propose 
to have his daughter marry into army life* Yet his older 
daughter Anne was already the wife of an army officer, with her 
father's full consent; his youngest daughter subsequently made 
the same kind of an alliance, with parental approval More 
over, in anticipation of marriage* Davis had already made his 
plans to retire from the service and set up as cotton planter. 
But the prospective father-in-law fought the wedding as bitterly 
as before- For two years the painful situation continued* 
Taylor would not permit Davis to enter his door f and the 
lovers were forced to meet in the homes of friends; every 
body in the region took their side, harshly criticizing Taylor 
for unfriendliness to so desirable a bridegroom* In 1835, two 
years after plighting herself to Jefierson, Knox Taylor took 
the boat from Prairie du Chien for Louisville, Kentucky, 
where, at her aunt's home, she planned to marry the lieutenant 
Just before sailing time, her father came aboard; the girl, it is 
said, literally fell upon her knees, beseeching forgiveness and 
consent to the marriage* Zachary proved adamant as even The 
wedding took place June 17, 1835, in the approving presence 
of many members of the Taylor family, "The estrangement 
between Lieutenant Davis and Colonel Taylor/* says the sec 
ond Mrs* Davis, 8 "was not healed in the lifetime of Mrs* 

Vol. I, p* 162, 


What is the reason for Taylor's behavior? Many years 
afterward the two men met on the battlefield of Buena Vista, 
in the Mexican War. Military experts, then and since, have 
given a large measure of credit for the success of this critical 
engagement to Jefferson Davis. So did Zachary Taylor at the 
time. According to the story, he congratulated his former ad 
versary on his tactics and heroism, adding, "My daughter was 
a better judge of men than I was." This would imply that 
his opposition had been personal. And that was undoubtedly 
the fact. He did not like Davis ; the man aroused in him an 
irrational antagonism; he turned from him for no reason that 
could be analyzed. And Davis returned this hostility in full 
measure. Grotesque stories are told of Davis at this time. 
Captain McPhee, one of his sympathizing friends, used to 
relate that Davis, after being debarred from the Taylor 
home, and disdainfully treated in other ways, asked him to 
carry a challenge to the irate Taylor. McPhee declared he 
would act as second only in case Davis gave up all claims 
to the maiden. "I would not help him shoot his own father- 
in-law," was McPhee's quite understandable objection. Sub 
sequent events brought Davis and Taylor closely together, 
both in the army and in politics, and soothed their mutual 
aversion. Probably the pathetic end of the romance had 
much to do with this new relationship. For the bride, taken 
to Davis's new plantation home in Mississippi, survived her 
marriage only three months. The fever-laden atmosphere of 
lower Louisiana, where she was paying a visit to one of Davis's 
sisters, took her in her twenty-third year. So vanished the one 
human being who was able to arouse the deepest emotions of 
this silent, undemonstrative man. Though Jefferson Davis 
married a second time, ajid married happily, he never recov 
ered from the shock of his first and lasting love affair. 




This tragedy brought to an end the earlier part of Davis's 
life and embarked him on a new path* In external circum 
stances, in aspiration and personal development, the Davis of 
this second period is a different character. From 18JS to 
1844 the young man was what he had never been before, a 
definitely placed resident of a particular state* For his first 
twenty-seven years, as already described* he had led a wander* 
ing existence as had his father and grandfather; practically 
every region of the South and a considerable part of the 
North and West had provided abiding places* Thus that 
loyalty to a particular region which Is supposed to be the 
birthright of the traditional Southerner had not been his por* 
tion. Consider the ancestors of Robert E. Lee : for more than 
two hundred years they had been the sons, not only of Virginia, 
but, for the most part, of a particular county, Westmoreland; 
they had been born to long-established ideas, to ancestral loyal* 
ties, and to certain political and soda! standards. No influences 
of this kind had surrounded the days of Jefferson Davis* He was 
not a Georgian, a Kentuddan, a South Carolinian probably 
not even a Mississippian. At approximately his thirtieth year 
Davis finally set up his tent in a particular state, but that was 
too late to acquire the sense of local patriotism which, in order 
to be powerful, must seize a man in his formative years* 

And there was another reason why Davis was never really 
devoted to any one locality* The truth is that Mississippi had 
no special character of its own. It was itself, in population and 
social and political attitude, a composite of the South as a 
whole* At the time Davis selected it as his home, Mississippi 
had been in existence as a state only eighteen years; a genera 
tion before a good part of it had been Spanish territory. Its 
population, in 1835, was composed of recent immigrants from 
Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and other 


Southern states. Practically all of these regarded themselves as 
sons of older communities, not of the new section into which 
they had rushed in the pursuit of rapid fortune. Thus, Jefferson 
Davis was a new phenomenon in American progress; he was a 
Southerner, a citizen of the great region south of the Potomac 
and the Ohio, not primarily a denizen of any one common 
wealth. In the growth of Southern nationalism his position 
may be compared to that of Alexander Hamilton in the de 
velopment of the American Union; just as Hamilton, born in 
the West Indies, and thus destitute of local patriotism, felt 
no allegiance except to the nation as a whole, so Davis, un 
familiar with any long-established Southern community in his 
sensitive years, became rather the champion of that Southern 
nationhood which gained ascendency in the thirty years pre 
ceding the Civil War. 

This Southern type differed materially from the familiar 
figure of colonial and Revolutionary times. Mississippi was a 
new country; its settlers were for the most part "new men" 
displaying many of the qualities of "new rich." Indeed they 
had many of those traits which many commentators have 
found odious in the industrialists of recent times. They were 
plutocrats, exploiters of natural resources, not so much agricul 
turists as the producers of the raw materials of manufacture. 
Their labors were tributary, not to the granaries of the nation, 
but to the textile mills of Great Britain and Europe. And the 
country they opened was as much virgin soil as were the 
forests, the oil wells, and the mineral fields into which the 
industrial adventurers of a later period found their precipitate 
way. The cotton barons of Georgia and the Mississippi delta 
exploited their land just as ruthlessly as did their successors 
in the West three decades afterward. The most important of 
these natural resources was a belt of black loamy soil, extend 
ing from South Carolina across central Georgia and Alabama, 
and bordering both banks of the Mississippi River from the 
Gulf to Tennessee. This area made the agricultural wealth of 


the new antebellum South; it made also its politics as well as 
the politics of the nation as a whole* It ultimately produced 
the Confederacy and the Civil Wan It maintained, in this 
critical period, that ascendency, both political and economic, 
which Virginia had upheld in the colonial period and the fifty 
years following the Declaration of Independence, 

It is an interesting circumstance that Virginian statesman 
ship, so potent in establishing the new nation* should have 
shown exhaustion almost contemporaneously with the exhaus 
tion of its tobacco lands, By 1824 f the year that marked the 
end of the Virginian Presidential "dynasty," the importance 
of the state as an agricultural region had also come to an 
end. Its social distinction still ruled supreme; but wealth, the 
export trade, and political ascendency were passing into other 
hands. Already Virginia's most adventurous sons, as well as 
those of the other long-established Southern states* teen* 
forced by a large contingent from North and West* had 
discovered the fruitful opportunities for rapid riches in the 
southwestern cotton belt. 

No soil so adapted to the cultivation of this indispensable 
staple had ever been placed at the disposition of man, The 
growth of the factory system, the invention of spinning ma* 
chinery and the cotton gin, the development of a vast market 
for British and Continental cotton manufactures in all sections 
of the world, particularly the Far East, created a demand for 
the product of Southern plantations almost beyond their 
capacity to supply. Consequently hordes rushed into the new 
country, acquiring acres by the thousands for absurdly small 
sums, frequently appropriating them without formalities 
of any kind, transporting into the new fields droves of 
slaves, usually purchased In Virginia and neighboring states* 
sometimes building homes of miscellaneous architecture; fre* 
quently living in other regions, even in the North, and leaving 
management to overseers. The most wasteful method of 
agriculture prevailed. That preliminary to creating farms so 


common in other regions, especially New England, removal 
of the forest, was not the rule in this pioneer country. The 
trees were killed "deadening" it was called by ripping 
off the bark near the ground; the leaves fell, the smaller 
branches were torn away by the winds, and thus the needed 
sunlight gained access to the freshly planted seed. There were 
no attempts at conservation, either of trees or of soil. As soon 
as fertility had been exhausted in one area, the planter ad 
vanced to another, for land in that primitive era was cheap ; 
so that the whole country was streaked by abandoned cabins 
and those gaunt, dead forests, fit symbols of the desecrating 
rapacity that impelled the advancing hosts. As late as 1857, 
Frederick Law Olmsted visited this country, and the account 
he wrote was a desolate one; it gave a shocking picture of that 
rapacious devastation of nature's resources for immediate 
profit which laid the groundwork for the agricultural poverty 
of the region so familiar as a fact to-day. The inevitable ac 
companiments of the slave system the riches of the great 
planter, the poverty and ignorance of the unpropertied whites, 
the absence of schools, the lack of sanitation, the neglect of 
farming in its real sense were visible on every hand. u The 
majority of negroes at the North," concluded Olmsted, "live 
more comfortably than the majority of whites at the South." 4 
To this sweeping generalization, of course, glaring excep 
tions must be noted. Many of these large planters became very 
rich; in fact there were more wealthy men in the Southwest 
from 1840 to 1860 than in the East and North. And wealth, 
as is always the case, inspired certain ambitions. These miscel 
laneous pioneers in a new country, many of them from the 
older South, began to gaze wistfully at the culture and social 
charm that had made Virginia and South Carolina eminent in 
the early days of the Republic. The old, romantic South of 
the Potomac and the James, the South of statesmen, of 
Constitution framers, of philosophers and writers, of scholar- 

* The Cotton Kingdom (London, 1861), Vol. II, p. 129. 


ship and art* and of fine living, was on the decline. The 
new-rich of the lower Mississippi and Alabama rivers now 
dreamed of establishing some system in their country to take 
the place *of this vanishing Southern glory. They possessed 
the economic basis for a delectable society. The old Southern 
aristocracy had rested upon tobacco; could not a new Southern 
elite be built upon cotton? Naturally an extremely small part 
of the population would share this new splendor; but that 
was the case also In the old Virginia and Carolina ; there was 
as wide a chasm bet\veen the occupants of the great Potomac 
houses and the "underprivileged" Virginia peasantry as there 
was likely to be in this projected new abode of social eminence* 
And so, as money from the cotton crops poured in* selected 
oases of refinement at least its external aspects grew 
up on the lower Mississippi. Natchez was the most successful. 
To-day portfolios of "Georgian houses 1 * always contain a few 
pictures of homesteads in this Mississippi region. Their 
occupants were for the most part Whigs, as Federalist in 
attitude as the old shipping magnates of Boston or the lords 
of the rice coast in South Carolina* despising Democrats, 
loathing Andrew Jackson and his ilk. Their sons were usually 
sent to Yale or Harvard; their daughters were educated by 
private tutors, frequently imported from New England; and| 
as was the case in the old Southern society so sedulously aped, 
cotton planting, combined with **law and statesmanship! 1 * was 
regarded as the only decent occupation for gentlemen* By 
1860, much progress had been made in the establishment of 
this new order, not only in Natchez, but in other arets ; the 
progress in "statesmanship" had been far greater than Virginia 
had ever secured, for, by the fifth decade of the nineteenth 
century, this Southern cotton belt had succeeded in obtaining 
control of all three branches of the Federal government 
executive, legislative, and judicial and was using this power 
to extend its own interest It was the revolt of the North and 
West against this dominaace that brought on the Civil Wan 


One of the earliest arrivals in this new district, as well as 
one of the most successful, was Joseph Emory Davis, that 
elder brother of the future Southern statesman. By 1835, his 
fortune was popularly assessed at one million dollars. If that 
popular estimate was correct, this Davis was not only the 
richest Mississippian, but one of the richest of Americans, 
for millionaires at that early day were rare in any section of 
the United States. Joseph Davis had reached the new land 
of opportunity early; in 1818, a year after Mississippi be 
came a state, and before the rich quality of its soil was widely 
understood, he dropped his law practice in Natchez and, with 
the modest fortune it had brought him, purchased one of the 
most fertile pieces of land in a fertile region. About twenty 
miles south of Vicksburg the Mississippi indulges in one of 
those convolutions for which it is celebrated, making a detour 
which completely encloses a circular point of land, having a 
diameter of about ten miles. This river island was a wild and 
unkempt place at the time of the elder Davis's arrival, the 
earth covered with briers and bracken, the whole impeded by 
a growth of oak and magnolia. These obstructions once re 
moved, in the usual barbarous fashion, the Davis plantation 
rapidly became one of the most profitable on the hemisphere. 
The house which Davis built hardly rivaled the more pre 
tentious structures of the Natchez region but was much more 
spacious and substantial than the average Mississippi home. 
It had two stories, an upper and lower balcony, a wide entrance 
hall, drawing room and tearoom opening on the side, and 
the "office," "gun room," and storeroom that completed an 
old-fashioned Southern "mansion." Joseph Davis sold part 
of his domain to congenial friends and reserved five thousand 
acres for himself, which, cultivated by about a thousand slaves 
and managed with skill, rapidly made him rich. Joseph 
Davis represented the higher type of Mississippi planter; 
he was not an absentee landlord, but supervised the estate 
himself, treating his negroes with great kindness, even en- 


trusting the ablest of them with important executive func* 
tions, and devoting much of his own time to reading and 
study, especially in his chosen field politics and constitu 
tional law. If the Mississippi delta was to realise its ambition 
of becoming a second Virginia, clearly Joseph Davis would 
be an effective instrument in the transformation. 

This aspect of his chosen section much interested the man, 
To found a Southern family was his ambition, but to realize 
this aim his thoughts turned rather to his younger brother 
than to himself. Jefferson, twenty-four years younger* had 
enjoyed greater educational openings^ was a man of more 
polish and finer bearing, and a graduate of West Point 
In itself in that day a distinction fairly aristocratic. Moreover, 
his army career had been creditable, and he was generally 
regarded as a coming man* That Jefferson's engagement to 
Miss Taylor despite the hostility of Ztchary greatly 
gratified Joseph may be assumed. Jefferson, selected by his 
brother as the founder of the new line, could have made no 
more auspicious beginning. Kno% Taylor was directly de* 
scended from that Richard Lee, who, about 1 640, became the 
ancestor of the most famous of all Southern families. An idea! 
bride, this, for the u new man 1 * bent on lifting himself in the 
social scheme 1 Joseph Davis was as much opposed to sur 
rendering this auspicious couple to the itinerant life of army 
posts as was father Zachary Taylor himself. He therefore 
sequestrated five hundred acres of his Island kingdom, stocked 
it with an adequate supply of slaves, and, immediately after 
the honeymoon, established the newly married pair on a 
plantation of their own* 

It is significant of the guardianship which the older brother 
maintained over the younger that he never gave him a free 
and clear title to the property; Jefferson operated it himself, 
and derived all the profit, but the ownership remained with 
Joseph. The latter had still more ambitious plans for his 
fraternal protege. That public life possibly a governor- 


ship, or a place in the lower House or the Senate which 
had been the crown of the tobacco planter's life in old Virginia 
was the future that Joseph had decided on for u little Jeff." 
As he proudly regarded the handsome young man and listened 
to his discussion of public questions, the elder was confident 
that this programme would not miscarry. Then the mala 
rial atmosphere of the Louisiana bayou, by killing the 
bride three months after marriage, apparently destroyed this 

And the young man's grief seemed for a considerable time 
to condemn him to a hermit's life. From 1835 to about 1843, 
that was essentially his existence. All social ambitions and all 
desire for political eminence vanished. Jefferson took up his 
abode at Hurricane, his brother's house, and gave most of his 
active hours to his farm. He did this so assiduously that he 
was soon earning a good income. But for seven or eight years 
he was a recluse. Sometimes a whole year passed without his 
leaving the island. His only close companions were his negroes 
to several of whom he became warmly attached and 
employees in the ginhouse ; he never visited neighbors and had 
no desire to receive visits from them. Only with his brother, 
during those seven years of exile, did he grow more and more 

Intellectually, the period proved the most fruitful in Jeffer 
son Davis's life. All the time not given to the plantation was 
consumed in reading and study. The routine that Davis main 
tained from 1835 to 1843 does indeed recall the existence of 
the Virginian of olden time. The picture offered by the young 
planter among his books at Hurricane has many touches in 
common with that of Richard Henry Lee, as a young man, 
preparing himself for "statesmanship" in the library and 
garden of Stratford. Government, with Davis at this time, 
as with the Lees and Madison and Jefferson and Mason at 
an earlier day, became the unremitting subject of study. Again 
brother Joseph was the guardian angel. He had collected all 


the writings of the fathers'* of Hamilton, Madison* and the 
rest and all the histories and biographies and speeches of 
Southern and Northern giants, and these he and his young 
ward read, discussed, debated day after day and evening after 
evening* All the leading newspapers of Washington, Rich 
mond, and Charleston were conned and the discussions 
were exciting and engrossing, for the great slavery debate had 
started, the deeds of the abolitionists were enraging every 
Southern heart, and John OuJncy Adams and his antislavery 
petitions seemed fairly to presage disunion, The C&tttfre$$ion&$ 
Globe nowadays called Congrg$$mn&l Record came reg* 
ularly to the Davis establishment, the two brothers reading 
it with the same eagerness that the modern world gives to 
novels and detective stories. And the object of greatest inter 
est and strange as it may seem, of adoration was the 
Federal Constitution* Daniel Webster had no greater rever 
ence for this great charter than Joseph and Jefferson Davis 
had at this time. The fact is that Jefferson Davis never out 
grew his belief in this document as the greatest scheme of 
government ever framed by man; the first act of the Con 
federacy, as will appear* was the adoption of the Federal 
Constitution with a few changes as the basis of the 
new nation. Brother Joseph never ceased to portray the per 
fections of the labors of 1787. Was the Constitution not 
largely the work of Southern statesmen? Under It, so long 
as it was obeyed and not corrupted by the false reasoning of 
New England casuists t were not Southern liberties and South* 
ern "rights" secure? 

To grow one's crops and at the same time to browse among 
one's books, devoting attention chiefly to political and his* 
toric study, in preparation for public service here was the 
old Southern tradition, and this Jefferson Davis, under the 
watchful eye of his brother, now proceeded to revive. That 
the senior was the supervising influence is plain enough, 
"Josepfi," writes Mrs. Davis, "was well calculated to improve 


and enlarge the mind of his younger brother. Joseph Davis 
was a man of great versatility of mind, a student of govern 
mental law, and took an intense interest in the movements of 
the great political parties of the day." * Thus Joseph was one 
of those obscure makers of history who work in the back 
ground, for he it was who, more than any other influence, 
trained the mentality of the great chieftain of disunion. In 
all crises of Jefferson Davis's career, indeed, this older brother 
Is discovered as the propelling force. He gave the boy his 
education; he secured the appointment to West Point; he 
established him as a planter, and so started him to financial 
ease; he acted as mentor in his reading and in the formation 
of his political creed. And now the senior rendered another 
service this time of a more personal kind. He redeemed 
the scholastic hermit from his solitary existence and selected 
for him a wife. Davis was only twenty-seven when his first 
marriage ended in tragedy; by 1845, at thirty-seven, he was 
still a young man; ten years he had spent as a lonely wid 
ower; that he should marry again was in the natural course of 

For some time Joseph had had his eye upon a particularly 
desirable bride. Here again the old Virginian formula pointed 
the way. In the ancient South, a marriage was not, first of all, 
an impulsive romance ; it was a social contract in which pru 
dence as well as sentiment was considered. "Family and 
fortune" such were the two imperative qualities to be kept 
in the foreground. Fortune was not so indispensable in the 
Davis case, for the clan was already part of the new pluto 
cratic South; but "family" was essential to a young man who 
aspired to become the political spokesman of the most respect 
able Southern point of view. And so, scanning the field, this 
shrewd fraternal matchmaker hit upon the one matrimonial 
candidate in southern Mississippi who seemed most fitted to 
the high destiny appointed for the "little brother." 

* Memoir, Vol. I, p. 171. 



When William B. Howeil, son of a Revolutionary veteran 
who served for eight terms as Governor of New Jersey, 
floated down the Mississippi River in a flatboat, seeking, like 
many an ambitious Northerner* new pastures in America's 
richest cotton country, he finally came to a halt at the lofty 
bluff of Natchez, opened a law office, and rapidly attained 
a position of leading citizen. In those days the fact that a 
man was of Northern blood and a devotee of Alexander 
Hamilton constituted no bar to progress in a Southern com 
munity. Southerners always attached great significance to 
position; and the son of a governor, a man himself of educa 
tion and distinction, could count on the most cordial welcome. 
HoweU's Whig principles, his detestation of Andrew Jackson 
and Martin Van Buren, his unconcealed contempt for ^hill- 
billies" and u fly~up-the~creeks" proved no handicap In that 
segment of Mississippi; its settlers had not come exclusively 
from neighboring states; New England family names 
Dwight, Lovell, Lyman were common; several of Missis 
sippi's most famous men Sergeant S, Prentiss, John A. 
Quitman had come from the rocky New England soil 
When Howell fell in love with Louisa Kempe f daughter of 
a Virginia "aristocrat," the marriage was generally hailed as 
a union of the richest strains of Northern and Southern blood 

The best man at this wedding was Joseph Emory Davis 
who, in the few years succeeding Howeirs landing, had become 
one of his closest friends* That Joseph had a sentimental 
feeling for the bride was generally believed; however, this did 
not stand in the way of his own marriage soon afterward* or 
of an even closer friendship between the two families. Perhaps 
it explains the interest Joseph Davis displayed in the Howell 
children. The first, a boy, was named for him; the second, a 
girl christened Varina, born May 7, 1826, he regarded almost 


as a member of his own household. Varina was .brought up 
to call the elder Davis u Uncle Joe" and no relative observed 
with more affection and admiration the girl's progress. From 
the first he regarded her as one of the most desirable of 
feminine humankind. Perhaps the station that Varina ulti 
mately occupied that of Lady of the Confederacy ex 
plains the retrospective enthusiasm of the friends of her early 
days. Certainly admiration could go no further. Her biog 
rapher, Mrs. Rowland, sees in Varina Howell Davis a combi 
nation of Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, and Andromache; 
Queen Elizabeth for her wit, shrewdness, tart epigram, 
haughtiness, and statesmanship ; Victoria for her dignity, pro 
priety, conservatism, and practice of the homely virtues; 
Andromache for the Trojan lady's unselfish absorption in 
fatherland, husband, and children. All these qualities, it is 
related, or at least their germ, Varina manifested as a girl. 
It is scarcely necessary to go to such extremes. Neither do 
the surviving daguerreotypes confirm the extravagant ap 
praisals of the girl's beauty. She could be properly described 
as fine looking, even handsome, but these pictures hardly 
warrant the elder Davis's appreciation expressed to brother 
Jefferson. "By Jove, she is as beautiful as a Venus 1" The slim 
body had a pleasing, graceful carriage ; the dark hair, combed 
ruthlessly in the plaits popular at the time, its sombreness 
relieved now and then by twist curls at the sides, and the dark 
intelligent eyes, contrasting to her "creamy white" complex 
ion, made her an arresting figure. 

Another of Joseph's recommendations also conveyed to 
Jefferson was entirely justified. "As well as good looks, she 
has a mind that will fit her for any sphere that the man to 
whom she is married will feel proud to reach." Varina had 
had unusual educational opportunities to which she had con 
genially responded. These, like her father and her political 
principles, came from the North. The two years spent in a 
Philadelphia young ladies' school were not the most important 


of these Yankee influences* Among the many New Englanders 
who came to Natchez in this boom period was George 
Winchester of Salem, Massachusetts, a graduate of Harvard, 
a fine classical scholar, and a man to whom the English writers 
were second nature* Winchester rose to be one of the con 
spicuous lawyers of Mississippi, and a judge of its highest 
court. He never married, and, close friend and frequenter of 
the Howell home, he took the little girl under his wing. Her 
mental quickness, her eagerness for books, and her happy, 
quick retorts aroused both his admiration and affection. Judge 
Winchester was not technically Varina's tutor, for his business 
was the practice of the law, and he took no compensation from 
the Howell family. But for twelve years, from early child 
hood to her sixteenth year t he devoted himself to framing 
Varina's mind. A few evenings after Jefferson Davis's first 
meeting with his future wife, the girl entertained him and 
Joseph by reading one of the political speeches with which the 
American atmosphere was then resounding; the ease with 
which she pronounced certain Latin phrases and the readiness 
with which, in answer to their challenge, she translated them, 
astonished the brothers. This knowledge, unusual in a Southern 
girl of the day in a Northern one for that matter was 
the fruit of Judge Winchester's instruction. He taught Varina 
the Latin classics, introduced her to English literature, 
schooled her in the John Adams brand of Federalist principle. 
The Influence of Judge Winchester never left hen Next to 
her husband, he was the idol of her life. Always in the crises 
that befell her and they were many and terrible ~~ Mrs* 
Davis's thoughts would revert to this companion of her child 
hood. What she was, Intellectually and to a large extent In 
strength of character, she owed to him. To her he was "Great- 
heart," the name she invariably called him. 

A rare experience this, and that a man of Winchester's 
quality should have thought Varina worthy of this patient 
care, from her fourth to her sixteenth year, and that the 


should have responded so appreciatively to his ministrations 
no further testimony could be asked as to her own sensitive 
ness to the u things of the mind." Her home surroundings 
the house was a large structure, poised on one of the loftiest 
bluffs near Natchez, with a magnificent view of the river, here 
a mile wide, the Mississippi steamboats, usually described in 
the literature of the day as "floating palaces," gracefully 
paddling by, the surrounding country a forest of magnolias, 
oak and gum trees, the evening sky tinged by the most bril 
liant of sunsets harmonized completely with the stimulating 
mental world in which the child passed her days. In this 
region Chateaubriand had laid the scene of his Atala; and 
even his exuberant fancy hardly exaggerated its sylvan beauty. 
This Natchez life, full of gayety, house parties, visits, and 
neighborly association, had little in common with the existence 
led by the Davis brothers in the malarial bottom lands of the 
Bend. Indeed, Varina had been brought up to regard the 
Vicksburg area as hardly in tune with her more elevated 
existence. First of all, this Davis section was Democratic, 
and Democrats were an obnoxious folk with whom "nice 
people," like the Whigs of Natchez, had nothing to do. In 
those days social barriers were drawn on party lines I Again, 
this lesser breed were Methodists and Baptists, at best Presby 
terians, while the blue bloods of the Howell environment, like 
those of ancient Virginia, were Anglicans. But of course an 
exception could be made in the case of "Uncle Joe" Davis. All 
these years he remained on the friendliest relations with the 
Howell family; all this time he had solicitously watched the 
blossoming of the daughter of the house. The Howells were 
not surprised therefore at his repeated requests that Varina 
pay a visit to his home. In the winter of 1843 he was too 
insistent to be denied. The girl was then seventeen. A large 
house party had been arranged for Christmas 1843-1844 at 
"The Hurricane," and Miss HowelFs parents acceded to 
Joseph's request that she be one of the guests. Not improbably 


the Howells fathomed "Uncle Joe's 11 romantic purpose in 
pressing this invitation. But the conspiracy, if it had been 
hatched, was a tacit one. "It is not verified by a single hint 
nor utterance preserved in any reminiscence either in verbal 
or written form, of any of the parties concerned, that there 
had been a premeditated plan on the part of anyone for a 
meeting of Varina Howell and Jefferson Davis, All of the 
circumstances, however, point to the fact that at least the 
shrewd elder brother Joseph was not without some design in 
bringing the lovely young Varina to *The I lurritane 1 for the 
Christmas holidays,* 1 * 

If such a romantic plot were afoot, at least one of the 
persons concerned was completely innocent That was Varina 
herself. When she started north on the steamboat Magnolia, 
under the care of Judge Winchester, she did not know that 
such a person as Jefferson Davis existed. She presently showed 
signs of petulance that she had never been told of Joe*s young 
brother, u Did you know he had one? 1 * she asked her mother 
in her first letter from Hurricane, That letter is a remarkable 
document it betrays in every line the instant impression 
Jefferson had made upon the girL She had stopped for a short 
visit with Mrs. McCaleb, Joseph Da vis's daughter; almost 
immediately a tall horseman appeared before Miss Howell 
and informed her that she was expected at Hurricane the next 
day; after delivering this message in his most courteous man 
ner, the apparition vanished. Yet on the strength of this brief 
interview the famous letter was written. "I do not know 
whether this Mr* Jefferson Davis is young or old, He looks 
both at times; but I believe he is old* for from what I hear 
he is only two years younger than you are* [Jefferson was 
then thirty-five I] He impresses me m a remarkable kind of 
man, but of uncertain temper, and has a way of taking for 
granted that everybody agrees with him when he expresses 
an opinion, which offends me; yet he is most agreeable and 

* Varina Howell, Wife of Jefferson Davte, bjr JSron Kowlaatf, VoL I, p* 4& 


has a particularly sweet voice and a winning manner of assert 
ing himself. The fact is, he is the kind of person I should expect 
to rescue me from a mad dog at any risk, but to insist upon 
a stoical indifference to the fright afterward. I do not think 
I shall ever like him as I do his brother Joe. Would you be 
lieve it, he is refined and cultivated and yet he is a democrat I" 
It is a puzzling, almost an incredible characterization. On its 
surface it was written on the very day of this first meeting; 7 
and yet the young girl proceeds to psychologize her subject in 
all this detail. And the analysis shows insight, for it hits off 
several of the traits that marked Davis all his life. And if 
Joseph could have seen the passage in which she disclaims a 
liking for the man, and even pretends to prefer the sexage 
narian brother, so wise a gentleman would have justly con 
cluded that his scheme had already half succeeded. 

The next few weeks provided all the essentials of an old- 
fashioned Southern courtship. They would have satisfied the 
most exacting requirements of a story by Thomas Nelson 
Page. December and January in that part of Mississippi are 
mild; and walks in the open, afternoons spent in the music 
room, evenings before a log fire, charades, dancing, singing 
no one could ask a more typical setting. The interest which 
the young girl and middle-aged man felt in each other soon 
struck the whole company. Brother Joe could scarcely conceal 
his delight. In fact, there was not much subtlety in his be 
havior. Whenever the three came accidentally together, he 
usually found some excuse for slinking from the room, and 
his persistence in keeping intruders at a distance from the 
romantic pair caused a general smile. The truth is that Varina 
and Jefferson were soon very much in love and everybody was 
pleased. The fitness of the match was only too apparent. 
Varina's horror at her lover's political opinions was not 
feigned; he had made his beginning in politics, had already 
run unsuccessfully for the legislature and was soon to take 

7 "To-day Uncle Joe sent me his younger brother," it begins. Ibid., Vol. I, p. 48. 


the stump for Polk and Dallas; but his very presence dis* 
abused her of the conviction that only backwoodsmen and 
u dirt caters 11 could be Jacksonians, In fact, her admiration 
for the man was unbounded. Her pride in the deference shown 
him by others was great, and when informed that on Jeier- 
son's one brief trip to Washington* five years before. Presi 
dent Van Buren had invited the Mississippian to his breakfast 
table this, she believed, was a fitting tribute to his gentility 
and handsome deportment "Everybody bows down before 
the younger brother/ 1 she wrote. Jefferson's opinion of the 
girl, expressed to Joseph, was quiet and characteristic* "She 
is beautiful and she has a fine mind." 

Before that Christmas party disbanded, the engagement 
had been virtually arranged* The wedding* however, did not 
take place until the next year* in February, 1 845. It was a 
quiet one, with only the families present, probably because 
the groom was a widower. After a brief honeymoon the mar 
ried life of Jefferson Davis and Varina Howe!! began at a 
newly constructed house on his plantation famous In Southern 
history as "Brierfidd." 



Davis had emerged from his self-Imposed exile with a fairly 
complete stock of political ideas. In his unsuccessful campaign 
for the legislature in 1843, and in his stumping tour as a 
Presidential elector in 1844, he had given these a considerable 
publication. Naturally they embodied little that was original. 
In fact, they exhaled the flavor of the closet They were the 
fruit of seven years of study and academic discussion; John 
Taylor of Caroline, Thomas Jefferson, Madison the Madi~ 
son, not so much of the Constitutional Convention and the 
Federalist as of the Report on the Virginia and Kentucky 
Resolutions and Calhouu, in his later phase, were the 


political thinkers who formed the young philosopher's mind. 
The turning point in Jefferson Davis's progress, as in that o 
the country as a whole, was the Mexican War, still a year or 
two ahead. The era from 1835 to 1846 portrays Davis in 
what may be called his abstract mood; the after period, that 
in which practical issues produced a changed view of Southern 
destiny. It is true that Davis, to his dying day, insisted on 
opinions formulated during this political adolescence; as late 
as 1880, when his two-volumed apologia was published, he 
elaborated these ancient theses with tedious iteration; but his 
story, as Southern statesman and President, will disclose the 
little power an ancient creed wielded upon his practical life. 
Faithful to old Virginia, ambitious to restore the Virginian 
tradition to a frontier country, the old Virginia scholasticism 
was adopted as his professed doctrine. Thus his allegiance 
to "State rights" was of the most approved Virginia type. 
Only the state was "sovereign" ; no sovereignty inhered in that 
entity known as the United States of America ; the only powers 
it possessed were those delegated for specific purposes by its 
masters, the states; these powers had been conferred tempo 
rarily, during good behavior, so to speak; the "sovereign 
states" had, of their own free will, and as an expression of 
their "sovereignty," entered into this compact, and by virtue 
of the same right could withdraw at any time. That is, secession 
was justified, both by the spirit and the letter of the Constitu 

It necessarily flowed from this that that charter must be 
strictly construed. The Federal government could exercise 
only those powers entrusted to it by states. Above all, it could 
not appropriate money for local and state purposes; "internal 
improvements" were abominations to Davis as to his great 
preceptors, Thomas Jefferson and John C. Calhoun. The old 
familiar interpretation need not be rehearsed again in this 
place. But one or two examples may be cited showing the 
rigidity one almost might say the priggishness with 


which Jefferson Davis practiced his bookish faith* His first 
act as member of Congress a new service that began in 
December, 1845 was to introduce a resolution, which died 
in Committee, providing that all Federal troops be withdrawn 
from Federal forts, their places to be supplied by recruits 
furnished by the states, each state represented in proportion 
to its membership in Congress. At the end of the Mexican 
War, President Polk, as a reward for Dav5s*s indisputably 
capable service, tendered him a brevet as brigadier general. 
Davis respectfully put aside the honor : it was an insult to the 
State-rights rubric. Strange refusal for a man who, as Presi 
dent of the Confederacy, was to be abused as the foe of local 
sovereignty and the "tyrant" of nationalism 1 

The Mexican War had both a propitious and a malevolent 
effect upon the career of Jefferson Davis* At Monterey and 
Buena Vista he displayed not only personal courage and dash 
ing Initiative but considerable ability as a tactician* Buena 
Vista in particular brought him reputation, both in his own 
country and In Europe, his famous V formation in meet 
ing the attacking enemy being held by some as responsible 
for that decisive victory. A serious wound received in this 
engagement, making the use of crutches necessary for a con 
siderable period, added the personal touch so indispensable 
in the creation of a popular hero* All this made Davis the 
most popular man m Mississippi and provided the ground 
work for his political career* But not improbably it had a 
baneful influence on the fortunes of the future Confederate 
States* It not only strengthened the man's natural passion for 
military glory, but convinced him that his real talents lay in 
the martial field. General Grant said that Davis regarded 
himself as a military genius. Most experts to-day believe that 
President Davis's constant interference in army matters and 
his endless bickerings with his generals exercised an unhappy 
effect upon Confederate campaigns, especially in the last years 
of the war. Thus it is not impossible that the young man's 


exploits in Mexico and the widespread acclaim they received 
had an influence on history which no one at that time could 

Davis, of course, was not a modern man; he lived through 
the period of Darwin, but all the science and philosophy of 
the age made no impress upon his rigid, straight-laced mind. 
His political beliefs, like his religion and morals and his con 
ceptions of human society, were not the product of independ 
ent thought, but of the circumambient mores. His worship of 
slavery, for it was nothing less, led him into some queer 
divagations in biology and anthropology. In a faraway meta 
physical sense this man was an abolitionist; that is, slavery 
did not represent ultimate perfection for the negro, in that 
distant golden age toward which mankind was slowly ad 
vancing. Thousands of years ahead, the black man would be 
free. This pious expectation in Davis took form in his weirdest 
paradox. The best way to abolish slavery, he insisted, was to 
extend it. Spread the institution all over the country, from the 
Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Let the slave ships 
deposit their cargoes in California, in 1845, just as they had 
done in Virginia in 1620! Such new slave territory did not 
mean, he said, a single additional slave; it merely signified the 
wider distribution of the existing supply. The influence exer 
cised on population by abundant food and economic demand 
was something overlooked by this amateur demographer. The 
Davis explanation of the origin of slavery and its justification 
was even more primitive. It was based on the most funda 
mental kind of religion. Father Noah, according to Genesis, 
had condemned all the dusky sons of Ham to "everlasting 
servitude." That was the reason, and all-sufficient justification, 
for the existence of 4,000,000 black bondmen in the United 
States of America. "It matters not," said Davis, "whether 
Almighty Power and Wisdom stamped diversity on the races 
of men at the period of the creation, or decreed it after the 
subsidence of the flood. It is enough for us that the Creator, 


speaking through the inspired lips of Noah, declared the 
destiny of the three races of men/' 

This fervid belief in slavery was genuine; it rested on even 
stronger grounds than "fundamental 1 * religion or social con 
vention; its solid basis was self-interest; it was making Davis 
rich as it was thousands of other men in his region. Not the 
same can be said for the other great item in his creed State 
rights; his theories here seem a little artificial. Davis was 
probably not aware of this mechanical aspect himself, but, as 
will appear, he disregarded his own aggressively maintained 
doctrine when practical issues made that the course of ad 


With the Mexican War new aspirations began to sway 
Southern ambition, especially in that miscellaneous Southwest 
of which Davis presently became the most vocal spokesman* 
This new American hinterland was hardly an appropriate place 
to set up the ancient Southern gods. It was as undisciplined 
and raw as those Western states that had sprung into existence 
at about the same time. Virginia and the Caroiinas had a 
background of more than two centuries of symmetrical his 
tory; as colonies and states they were much older than the 
Federal government. Thus with some truth they could main 
tain that they and the eleven other original commonwealths 
had created this central government and therefore could not 
properly be regarded as its subordinate offspring. They had 
evolved distinct characters as political societies, had produced 
noteworthy families and statesmen of large stature; that is, 
they possessed, precisely as they claimed, distinct individu 
alities. Virginia still bore the impress of the British "ad 
venturers" who had settled it; probably the persistent quality 
of the Caroiinas had its explanation, at least in part, in its 
large infusion of French Huguenot blood, a race marked by 


its reverence for institutions and its sense of historic con 
tinuity. When Virginia and South Carolina, therefore, set up 
their claims to independent existence apart from the recently 
established Central power, even when they called themselves 
"nations," the assertion was not entirely preposterous. But with 
new communities like Alabama and Mississippi, such pre 
tensions seemed absurd. At the time of the Constitution Con 
vention Mississippi was a wilderness. As a state, the Federal 
government could rightly insist that it was its own creation. 
In 1850, the period now under consideration, Mississippi 
had been in existence only about thirty years; its popula 
tion, formed by accretions from all Southern sections as well 
as by thousands from New England and the North, had de 
veloped no distinguishing quality, none of the local genius 
which was stamped on the Virginian and the "Carolinian." 
An attempt to found its public life upon the concepts of an 
old established civilization was as absurd as the effort to 
establish on the lower Mississippi the social conditions that 
had flourished for two centuries and a half along the Potomac 
and the James. 

The point is of great consequence in the present connection, 
for it was this parvenu South, rude in its culture, en 
gaged in a mad scramble for wealth, which ruled the whole 
country in the twenty years preceding the Civil War, and 
which was chiefly responsible for that calamity. Of this new 
pugnacious force in the American imperium, Jefferson Davis 
came more and more to be the prophet. The annexation of 
Texas gave Davis and other statesmen of this new area their 
opportunity. The fight they waged was not so much one for 
State rights whatever catchwords may have obscured the 
real issue as one for Southern nationalism. The desire was 
not so much for separation from the Union as separation 
from the North. As sectional differences took on new intensity 
the conviction grew that two really distinct and discordant 
nations had been, by a monstrous error, incorporated into one; 


that the Northern states, commercial! Industrial, agricultural 
in a sense hardly known in the South, that of raising food 
supplies both for the home market and export, predomi 
nantly white in complexion, subsisting on free labor, extremely 
hostile to slavery and its extension, had little in common with 
the South, divided into huge plantations, worked by negro 
bondsmen, devoting all its energies to raising staple crops 
cotton, tobacco, rice, and sugar. That there was a H Northern 
nation," intensely concentrated In sympathy and purpose* was 
evident; why not establish a Southern nation, just as wide 
spread, just as unified? At first the lack of territory had made 
impossible such a dream* At one time there were hopes that 
the West could be drawn within the Southern orbit; but the 
growth of antislavery feeling In the West, the hostility of 
that region to the admission of new slave states, its teeming 
wheat and corn farms crops more suited to cultivation by 
the independent white yeoman than fay the African pres 
ently showed that its future would lie with the North and 
East Consequently any proposed Southern nation would be 
limited to the territory lying south of the Ohio and east of 
the Mississippi and that small segment of the Louisiana pur 
chase allocated by the Missouri Compromise to slavery* As 
the map of the United States stood in 1845, the future clearly 
lay with the free North and West, and it is not strange that, 
up to this time, little had been heard of a great Southern 

The Mexican War changed the outlook. This ripped from 
the disorderly Republic of Mexico half of its domain, almost 
overnight. In addition to Texas, tbe vast country that subse* 
quently was transformed into the states of California, New 
Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and part of Colorado was 
added to the United States* In extent, this annexation was 
larger than the territorial expanse reaching from the Missis 
sippi to the Atlantic Ocean, with which the United States in 
1783 began its independent existence. Here was the oppor* 


tunity for the expansion of the South into a country on almost 
equal terms with the North. From this acquisition may be 
dated the rise of Southern nationalism. The idea had many 
mutations; but the plan that now rapidly took shape in Davis's 
mind may be taken as the extreme of this new Southern "im 
perialism." He would have extended the Missouri Compro 
mise line west to the Pacific coast all territory north to be 
part of the old Union, all south to become Southern. This 
line would have struck the Pacific about 100 miles south of 
San Francisco; the rich country of Southern California, there 
fore, would have been included in the proposed Southern 
realm. But Davis and his confreres had far more ambitious 
plans. They expected to take in a large part of what was left 
of poor Mexico ; at times their ambition included all of Central 
America as far as Panama. Yucatan Davis particularly 
coveted, and, as Secretary of War in Pierce's cabinet, he was 
the directing schemer in plans for the annexation of Cuba 
out of which two or three states were to be carved. To flood 
this extensive country with slaves it would be necessary to re 
open the African slave trade; and that Davis, at this time, 
favored such a revival is the opinion of his ablest biographer, 
William E. Dodd. 8 

It all looks rather insane to-day, but such was the new 
"imperialism," the new Southern nationalism, to which Davis 
began to give his thoughts. His political ambitions received a 
great impetus as a result of his service in the Mexican War. 
That made him Senator from Mississippi, member of the 
Franklin Pierce cabinet, and most commanding spokesman of 
the South; all Brother Joe's splendid wishes had been realized. 
The elder brother, it is true, had given Davis his oppor 
tunities, but it is also true that he rapidly developed talents 
and capacity for leadership that justified this patient instruc 
tion. "Little Jefi" was now a ready and persuasive orator, a 
forceful and arrogant debater; he was a man of impeccable 

6 Jefferson Davis, p, 177. 


private life and the head of a charming family his social 
eminence in Washington was enhanced by the dignity and 
grace of his accomplished partner. That there was nothing 
inspired in Davis's speech-making is true. Humor and a quick 
appreciation of human attributes had been denied him. Not 
one of Davis's hundreds of addresses has added a single gem 
to American literature* He appears in no anthologies* There 
are no Davis epigrams* no Davis witticisms! no Davis anec 
dotes; he had none of that genius for compressing the issues 
of an epoch into a single undying sentence that distinguished 
his great adversary. And this literary disqualification was 
evident not only in Davis, but in practically all contemporary 
leaders of the South* Take down such a volume as the recently 
revised Bartlztt's Quotations, Here are enshrined quotations 
in plenty from Lincoln, Seward, Greeley, Stanton, Grant, 
Sherman, and other Northern chieftains, but practically noth 
ing from Davis, Benjamin, Yancey, Robert E* Lee, Stonewall 
Jackson, or Jeb Stuart. If you go back to the older Southern 
ers, however, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Marshall, 
Randolph of Roanoke, Andrew Jackson, John C Caihoun* 
the gift for phrasing is again apparent, Here once more we are 
confronted with the truth that the nau^eau riche South, which 
made the war, was something very different from that of the 
olden time. 

Though he lacked literary effectiveness, Davis did not lack 
adequate expression and certainly not programmes and ideas* 
The situation came to a crisis in 1850* Jefferson Davis now 
makes his first appearance as leader of Secession. That the 
nation came close to secession and civil war In 1850 is some 
thing most Americans have forgotten. It wts the year of 
two simultaneous events, the meeting of the Nashville 
Convention and the passage by Congress of the famous Com 
promise measures, both the fruits of the Mexican Wan 
These two proceedings represent the two forces then at work 
In the American drama, one making for disunion, the other 


attempting to bring into lasting compromise the forces, North 
and South, that yearned to perpetuate the prevailing order. 
The Nashville Convention was the achievement of the dis 
affected the seceders. The hurly-burly that had distracted 
the nation since the acquisition of Mexican territory had 
persuaded them that there was only one way to obtain their 
"rights" chief of which was the right to convert this new 
American empire into a stronghold of slavery and that was 
by separation from the Union. Perhaps it would be more 
accurate to say that the threat of Secession was the way they 
hoped to accomplish this end. The Nashville Convention, 
called in January, 1850, to meet in June, was in reality such 
a threat. Jefferson Davis, its chief promoter, made no attempt 
to conceal this fact. Congress at the time had under considera 
tion the future the slavery future of the Mexican cession. 
Decide this question as we demand or we shall secede 1 
That was the attitude of the Nashville Convention; it was 
really a club brandished over the head of a hesitating Congress. 
But it was not an enterprise with which the South as a whole 
showed much sympathy. The Nashville Convention was the 
creation of the new plutocratic South of that lower tier of 
new Southwestern states which, as already observed, acquired 
great political influence at this time. Its promoters were Jeff 
erson Davis, Albert Gallatin Brown of Mississippi, William 
Lowndes Yancey of Alabama, and Robert Barnwell Rhett 
of South Carolina. This latter name makes necessary a slight 
amendment to the statement above, for South Carolina must 
not be included in the new-risen Southwest. But Rhett's 
participation was on an entirely different basis from that of 
Davis and the rest. In his eye, Nashville was to be the 
vindication of the classic State rights for which he stood; he 
was not interested, as were the other leaders, in creating a 
new Southern Republic; his passion was for state sovereignty 
and state independence, even state nationality. 

The fact is, however, that not even South Carolina, as a 


whole, cared much for the Nashville Convention ; Rhett's im 
passioned advocacy made him so unpopular in his own state 
that he was forced to resign his seat in the Federal Senate. 
This was 1850, remember, not 1860! What really gave the 
coup de grace to Davis's Convention and made it odious not 
only In the North but also in the South, was Clay's compromise, 
which was generally accepted in both regions as permanently 
settling the great controversy* Even Mississippi, which had 
taken the lead, was sharply divided* In no place was the Seces 
sion Convention more unpopular than among the Mississippi 
Whigs, who represented the intelligence and culture of the 
state. One wonders if Davis found opposition at his own 
hearth; for it was Mrs* Davis's relatives and friends in 
Natchez who grew most emphatic against this scheme of 
disunion. Her husband's part In the proceeding so diminished 
his popularity in his own state that his political future seemed 
to have been destroyed. In 1851 the exigences of Mississippi 
politics compelled Davis to resign his Federal Senatorship 
and run as Democratic candidate for Governor, Only one 
short year before he had been the political darling of his 
people, the wounded, half-blinded hero of Buena Vista; but 
his opposition to the great Compromise, his sponsorship of 
Secession and the Nashville Convention had stained his es 

His opponent for Governor was Henry Stuart Foote, 
of whom he was to know much more In the future, one of 
those Virginians who, in the great southwestward migration, 
had wandered through Georgia and Alabama, finally anchor 
ing In the Unionist Whig region of Natchez, Foote and Davis 
had been fellow Senators from Mississippi during the Com 
promise debates; their association had not been congenial, 
however; on one occasion they came to a fist fight in their 
boardinghouse; and on the floor their exchange of compliments 
was tart, Foote being an unrestrained advocate of Union and 
the Compromise the bitterest denouncer of the futile Con- 


vention. To be defeated for the Governorship because of his 
programme of Secession was humiliation enough; to be van 
quished by a man he so detested as Foote for this was one 
of those personal antagonisms that litter Davis's life was 
unbearable. Jefferson and Varina left Washington in sorrow, 
and resumed existence at the Brierfield plantation with their 
cotton, their slaves, and their books. So far as Davis could 
see, that political triumph of which he had dreamed was at 
an end. His fervor for disunion and Southern nationality 
had blasted it. It must have been a sad moment for Brother 
Joe, now sixty-seven years old. All that long time spent in 
preparation, all that startling success in the Mexican War, all 
those promising first steps in politics, including a seat in the 
United States Senate, had ended in sequestering Jefferson 
Davis, at the age of forty-three, at his modest cotton farm 
on Davis Bend, on the lower Mississippi. And he had been 
destroyed because of his championship of Secession 1 


It was a gentleman from the far northern state of New 
Hampshire who rescued Davis from this new obscurity. Here 
we meet something novel in the Davis story a friendship. 
For close intimate friends were almost unknown to Jefferson 
Davis. Even this friendship was not particularly warm, rest 
ing rather on a community of taste and convictions than on 
cordial personal affection. For Franklin Pierce was about as 
distant, rigid, and unemotional as Davis himself. Yet a cer 
tain sympathy did draw the men together. Davis, in his me 
moirs, never mentions the name of Franklin Pierce without 
praise; Pierce, even after Davis became the leader of a cause 
which he repudiated, still corresponded on terms of friend 
ship; yet in their letters their salutations never advanced be 
yond the "Dear Sir" or "Dear Friend" stage. In those days 


Clay was "Harry" to his senatorial intimates and Webster 
was "Dan 1 !," but Pierce and Davis never became "Frank" 
and "Jeff" to each other. Despite this, the men were sym 
pathetic. This was evident on their first meeting, on the 
Misslssippian's first visit to Washington in the winter of 1838* 
Pierce was then not a particularly conspicuous representa 
tive from New Hampshire. Davis met him at a Congres 
sional "mess"; they saw much of each other; it was Pierce 
who took his new Southern friend to breakfast at the White 
House with President Van Buren. That a citizen of the 
New Hampshire granite hills and a denizen of the lower 
Mississippi river bottom should think alike on the great polit 
ical issues of the time strikes the present generation as a 
paradox, yet this was not unusual. Pierce detested the Aboli 
tionists, thought that the attitude of his fellow-Northerners 
was endangering the Union, accepted the Southern thesis on 
slavery, and wished, above allj to bring the controversy to an 
end. What Pierce believed was not of great public consequence 
in 1837, but sixteen years afterward it was a matter of national 
concern. For the strange sinuosities of politics has made this 
unassuming, far from brilliant or courageous Yankee Presi 
dent of the United States. Almost his first act was to reach 
over to Davis Bend on the Mississippi, rescue a more or less 
discredited statesman from what seemed likely to develop 
into permanent exile, and make him Secretary of War in his 
Cabinet And Davis rose to be more than merely head of 
an important department He quickly assumed the role of 
master of the Pierce Administration. He directed its destinies, 
both in domestic affairs and in foreign relations. This is 
another evidence of Davis's ability and force of character, 
for Pierce's Cabinet contained several able men, such as 
William L. Marcy of New York, Secretary of State, and 
Caleb Gushing of Massachusetts, Attorney General 

So begins Davis's second phase as a national statesman* 
And the man who took up life in Washington in 1853 to re 


main a national figure until his "adieu" in 1861 was something 
different from the more impetuous senator of the earlier 
period. In a sense he was chastened. The collapse of his 
Secession plans of 1850 had taught its lesson. Davis had 
learned prudence; an element of expediency now affected 
his programme. Not by the advocacy of disunion was political 
success to be achieved, even in Mississippi. Davis ceased 
for a time to be a Secessionist; even in 1861, contrary to 
opinion held by Horace Greeley and other Northern rheto 
ricians, Jefferson Davis was not a die-hard for separation 
not a Toombs or a Yancey or a Robert Barnwell Rhett. The 
erection of a great Southern republic, stretching from the 
Atlantic to the Pacific, and incorporating a large part of 
Mexico, was an idea that ceased to trouble his dreams. Instead 
he became the orator of "Southern rights," "extreme South 
ern rights," if you will, but still to be achieved within the 
Union. His object of worship was now the Federal Con 
stitution, and this he revered above all, because, he insisted, it 
guaranteed all the rights which the most aggressive Southern 
point of view demanded. The foremost was the constitutional 
right of the Southerner to go into any part of the national 
territory and take his slaves with him. All that new country 
lying west of the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean, so long as 
it remained in the territorial state, was to be made accessible 
to slavery. The old Davis imperialism was not dead; he still 
aspired to add large slices of Mexico and Central America 
to the United States all to be made sacred to slavery; and 
the most sensational diplomatic act of the Pierce Administra 
tion, an openly proclaimed determination to annex Cuba, was 
the outcome of his enginery. 

A great, powerful new South, protected by all the safe 
guards which Davis perceived in the Constitution, resting 
upon slavery as its economic background, strengthened, if 
necessary, by reviving the slave trade, but a South within the 
Union this was the end Davis worked for from this time 


forward. No man, indeed, was more fervent in affirming his 
love for the Union than Davis; its praises were constantly 
on his lips; but it was only by giving the South assurance of 
a great future on these lines, he declared, that the blessed 
work of the fathers could be preserved. And State rights of 
the old Virginia type? Again Davis gave the doctrine lip 
service; but a single advocacy shows how far he departed 
from it in practice. A test of allegiance to Jeffersonlsm was 
opposition to internal improvements. Federal money must not 
be used to construct huge public works! Both Monroe and 
Jackson had vetoed bills providing for the construction of 
Federal roads at the expense of the Federal Treasury* Davis 
had taken the same stand on many occasions* But, when the 
future of his beloved South was concerned, State rights went 
promptly into the discard. All through the fifties he was the 
irrepressible promoter of a Pacific Railroad* linking Cali 
fornia with Memphis, Tennessee* This foe of "internal im 
provements" proposed that the national government spend 
$100,000,000 on this grand enterprise. It was through his 
exertions that $10,000,000 was appropriated for the u Gads- 
den Purchase" a strip of Mexican soil adjoining New 
Mexico and Arizona, essential to the construction of this road, 
In acquiring this strip of land, Da vis's foresight was justified; 
through it the roadbed of the present Southern Pacific ex 
tends. But this, as well as his whole plan, flew in the face of 
all his protestations on the limited powers of the central 

Though Jefferson Davis in the decade from 18SO to 1860 
ceased to be the protagonist of Secession, he was the champion 
of the idea that inevitably meant civil war. This was the ex 
tension of the negro system of the South into the new territory 
beyond the Mississippi* That was the one thing, and the only 
thing, that made inescapable a clash of arms* Except by a 
minority of Abolitionists, who were as unpopular in the North 
as in the South, there was no intention of disturbing slavery 


In the states where it existed in I860. Beyond that it must 
not go. New Haitis or San Domingos were not to arise in 
the uncontaminated lands west of the Mississippi River. Such 
was Lincoln's attitude just before his inauguration. We 
promise not to interfere with slavery in those states where it 
is an established institution the pledge appeared in his first 
inaugural; he was even in favor of a Constitutional amendment 
making this guarantee. But slavery must not be extended 
into the new West; on that principle the new President took 
his stand, and for it he was prepared to wage a great civil 
war. It was the first step in that superb statesmanship for 
which posterity so honors his name. Imagine California, 
Oregon, Colorado, and all the rest of this vast territory to-day 
given up to slavery! Davis stood immovably for this very thing 

the unlimited extension of the slavery system. That was the 
cause of the Civil War. Many modern historians have sought 
other explanations for the mighty conflict. Especially has there 
been manifest a desire to explain it on "economic" grounds. 
It was a great struggle, we are told, between the "agricultural" 
South and the "industrial" North. This theory ignores several 
pertinent facts, chief of which is that the states that remained 
in the Federal Union in 1861 were an infinitely greater agri 
cultural country than those that comprised the Confederacy. 
In 1850 the hay crop alone of the free states had a higher 
value than all the cotton, tobacco, rice, and sugar produced 
in the South, and in the other essential agricultural crops 
wheat, oats, Indian corn, potatoes, rye, barley, and the like 

the future Confederacy was left far behind. The "agri 
cultural" and "industrial argument" therefore does not suffice. 

In a different sense the struggle may be described as an 
economic one. It was precipitated, not by the old traditional 
South but by the "new-rich" cotton millionaires who were ex 
ploiting the cotton lands of the Southwest Alabama, Missis 
sippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas. These men might be es 
teemed industrialists; at least, their occupation was that of 


raising cotton, the raw material of the spinning factories 
of Great Britain and France. It was the determination of this 
new extreme-southern South what, in modern days is usually 
described as the u deep South" to extend ever and ever its 
domain into new western fields and obtain more rich soil for 
the cultivation of a great industrial crop, that brought North 
and South into conflict Of this expansion of slavery Jeffer 
son Davis, from 1850 to 1861, was the most successful ex 
ponent; not inappropriately, therefore, the new nation, the 
creature of this new region, found its head, not in Virginia, or 
in the Carolinas, the early home of Southern statesmen, but in 
Mississippi, a newcomer among states, and chose in Jefferson 
Davis, its foremost citizen, the man whose life and record as 
statesman completely echoed the Southern philosophy which 
had gained the upper hand. 





ONE of the men to whom Lincoln most tersely described his 
policy on slavery was Alexander H. Stephens, of Georgia. 
Lincoln and Stephens had served together in Congress dur 
ing the Mexican War; both had opposed that aggression, and 
both had afterward fought in the same Whig Party for Tay 
lor's election in 1848. Probably Stephens was one of the few 
public men of the South to whom Lincoln, in 1860, was not 
an ignorant abolitionist "baboon"; Stephens even then ex 
pressed admiration for the new President and respect for his 
conscientious motives in dealing with the crisis. A speech this 
independent Southerner made before the Georgia Legislature 
on November 14, 1860, profoundly affected the man who, 
about a week before, had been elected President of the United 
States. Stephens had addressed an impassioned plea to this 
pivotal Southern state, advising it not to secede I The episode 
led to an exchange of letters between the two former fellow 
Congressmen, in one of which Lincoln set forth, as clearly as 
it has ever been set forth, the main points in the argument that 
was tearing the nation apart. "I fully appreciate," Lincoln 
wrote to Stephens, December 22, 1860, "the present peril 
the country is in and the weight of responsibility on me. Do 
the people of the South really entertain fears that the Repub 
lican administration would, directly or indirectly, interfere 
with the slaves, or with them, about the slaves? If they do I 
wish to assure you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an 
enemy, that there is no cause for such fear. The South would 
be in no more danger in this respect than it was in the days of 
Washington. I suppose, however, this does not meet the case. 


You think slavery is right and ought to be extended, while we 
think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That, ! suppose, 
Is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between 


The Southern opponent of Secession to whom Lincoln wrote 
in these terms, at a moment when events had practically 
reached the breaking point, was destined, seven weeks after 
ward, to become Vice President of the Confederate States. 
These two facts the man's early hostility to forming a 
Southern Confederacy, and his prompt acceptance of second 
place in the new government indicate the contradictory 
phases of what was perhaps the most brilliant and resilient 
mind in the whole movement. From all points of view, intel 
lectual, physical, political, psychological, Stephens offers fas 
cinating qualities lacking in the more correct and prosaic Davis* 
A study of his life and character is indispensable to any under 
standing of the rise of the Southern nation even more of 
its fall. For both its establishment and its destruction he was 
one of the men chiefly responsible* No man formulated quite 
so vividly the ideas that led to the adoption, in February, 
1861, of an independent Constitution, and no man, in the 
following four years, so persistently instilled into its veins 
the poisons that led to its collapse. The elements of this failure 
were Inherent in the Confederacy at its birth and the scholar- 
statesman who became its Vice President was their most 
powerful exponent 

That the man should bear the name of Alexander Hamilton 
Stephens was itself symbolic, for in his earliest days of po 
litical thinking, and in all his activities up to the final parting, 
he was as belligerent an advocate of Union as the founder of 
the Federalist Party himself, Like Hamilton, Stephens was 
first of all an intellectual, a student of history and political 
institutions, a philosopher of government* Considering the 

1 Stephens published this letter m facsimile in Consttev&Qwit 7&w $/ tk* War 
iks States^ Vol. II, p, 266. 


physical equipment with which nature endowed him, Stephens 
could hardly have played any other role, for as both boy and 
man he was little more than brain. Of all leaders who have 
risen to eminence in the United States, none cut a more un 
fortunate personal figure. One day a Georgian follower, hav 
ing heard that the famous Alexander H. Stephens was on board 
a train then halted at the station, pushed through the crowds 
and stalked into the car to gain a glimpse of his favorite 
statesman. "Good Lord!" he exclaimed when his hero was 
pointed out, then turned his back and departed from the 
presence. What this disgusted hero-worshiper gazed upon 
was a small, boyish figure, a little more than five feet high, 
weighing about ninety pounds, with a shrunken, consumptive 
chest, a sallow, mummified face, in which the bony structure 
stood forth like a death's head, capped by a vampirish wisp 
of brown hair, the unearthly aspect of the whole lightened by 
a pair of fierce, piercing dark eyes, deep sunken in their sockets. 
The body was so small, so frail, so childish that, long after 
Stephens had become one of the leading lawyers of Georgia, 
he was commonly mistaken for a boy. "Do you expect to go 
to college ?" a stranger once asked Stephens, years after his 
graduation from the University of Georgia. "Sonny, get up 
and give your seat to the gentleman," was an admonition once 
addressed to him in the interest of a man younger than himself. 
Stephens, at the age of twenty-two, wrote down, in his 
usual precise way, his physical statistics. "My weight is ninety- 
four pounds, my height sixty-seven inches, my waist twenty 
inches in circumference, and my whole appearance that of 
a youth of seventeen or eighteen. When I left college two 
years ago, my weight was seventy pounds." Several con 
temporaries have humanized these details with lifelike de 
scriptions. "His form was the most slight and slender I had 
ever seen," says Richard Malcolm Johnston, Stephens's friend 
and biographer, "his chestnut hair was brushed away from a 
thin white brow and bloodless cheeks. The child looking at 


him felt sorry for another child." "The man looked as if he 
had two weeks' purchase on life," said the robustious Toombs, 
u An immense cloak, a high hat," so ran a newspaper descrip 
tion, "and peering somewhere out of the middle a thin t pale, 
sad face. How anything so small, sick and sorrowful could get 
here all the way from Georgia is a wonder. If he were laid out 
in his coffin, he needn't look any different : only then the fires 
would have gone out in the burning eyes. Set as they are in 
the wax4ike face, they seem to burn and blaze. 11 

Ill health represented the great tragedy of Stephens's life. 
He always had the appearance of one recovering from a 
long illness. From the first moment of consciousness, he him 
self declared, there had never been a day free from pain. 
His letters abound with references to the long disease that 
was his life. Neuralgia and what he described as u horrible 
headaches" had been daily inflictions. "Weak and sickly I 
was sent into the world with a constitution barely able to sus 
tain the vital functions. Health I have never known and do not 
expect to know. But this I could bear; pain I can endure; I 
am used to it Physical sufferings are not the worst ills I am 
heir to, I find no unison of tastes, feelings and sentiments in 
the world, . . , The torture of body is severe. I have my share 
of that; most of the maladies that flesh is heir to. But all 
these are slight when compared with the pangs of an offended 
and wounded spirit. The heart alone knoweth its own sorrow, 
I have borne it these many years, I have borne it all rny life.'* 

In Stephens we have a case, not only of physical suffering 
but of soul sickness. There has been a tendency to trace this 
melancholic state to his early life, its hardships, its sorrows* its 
struggles for social and educational betterment. Yet, though 
his early days were a time of poverty and physical toil, they 
did not differ particularly from those of many Americans who 
have risen to successful and contented lives. In ancestral in 
heritance the fates did not deal badly with Stephens, His 
grandfather was an English Jacobite who emigrated to Amer- 


ica after the rebellion of 174S, settled first near the Juniata 
region of Pennsylvania, afterward in Wilkes County in 
Georgia, serving with considerable credit in the Revolution. 
His mother belonged to the Grier family of Pennsylvania, and 
was a relative of that Justice of the Supreme Court who figured 
conspicuously in the Dred Scott decision. Alexander's father 
was both country school teacher and small slaveless farmer. 
From him the sickly boy obtained his earliest schooling, sup 
plemented afterward by fall and winter terms in a nearby "Old 
Field School." Despite a frail constitution, Alexander spent 
much of his childhood in arduous toil. At the age of six 
he was "corn dropper" on his father's acres; as such it was 
his task to follow the plow, letting fall the kernels in the 
spreading furrows. Later he became farm hand and sheep 
herder; as there were apparently no negroes on this little 
estate, most of the small and not especially dignified jobs 
they usually performed became his duty. Even then existence 
had its compensations. Always there was the father with 
Webster's spelling book, the Bible, and a few other volumes 
to stimulate the child's enthusiasm for reading. Glimpses sug 
gesting the boy Lincoln survive. Alexander, like Abraham, 
even spent evenings conning his literary treasures by a pine- 
knot light! A great good fortune that came in his four 
teenth year compensated for many days spent in "corn drop 
ping" and guiding the plow. A rich patron appeared at the 
precise moment when he believed his education at an end. 
This gentleman had been observing Aleck for some time, and 
noting his eagerness for study and his piety he offered to send 
the boy to a neighboring academy where he could "learn Latin" 
and prepare for the State University at Athens. In this way 
Stephens grew up an educated man and one educated far 
beyond the resources of the Georgia of that time, for edu 
cation with him never ceased, and books took the place that 
mundane satisfactions provide for men physically better 
equipped for them. At the University Alexander's record 


was a brilliant one; his Greek remained a possession to the 
end, and history and political theory were absorbing themes. 
After graduation Stephens studied law, rapidly becoming one 
of Georgia's leading advocates, and this inevitably launched 
him on a career in the state legislature and the Federal Con* 
gress. But he was always a closet student, and the point is an 
important one in estimating his influence on the Confederacy, 
for he viewed every question from the doctrinal, not the prac 
tical standpoint. Stephens was that "scholar in politics 1 ' some 
times regarded as so desirable in a fumbling democracy; not 
improbably the cynical might regard him as a striking illustra^ 
tion of the evil which the pure theorist can achieve in everyday 

The middle name, Hamilton, was not given Stephens at 
christening; he added it to Alexander as a tribute to a be 
loved professor whom he revered as chiefly responsible for 
his start in life. Like most promising young men, Stephens 
early received invitations to appear in his neighborhood as 
Fourth-of-July orator, just as Webster did in New Hampshire, 
and his exhortations proved to be quite as vehement in preach 
ing State rights as had Webster's been in disseminating 
the soundest brand of Nationalism, Perhaps the man who 
exercised the greatest influence on Stephens's life, though an 
unconscious one, was his father* When Andrew Stephens, 
some time before Alexander's birth, used his first year's earn 
ings as schoolmaster to purchase one hundred acres near Little 
River in Georgia, he performed an act that had a great effect 
on his son's development. The land was situated not far from 
Crawfordville, In that section of Wilkes County that after 
wards was known as Taliafernx Here Alexander was born; 
to this place as a successful lawyer he returned to make his 
home; here he lived the rest of a long life, and here he died, 
in 1883. Stephens added much to his domain as time went on f 
but he never had any other home and desired none. In fact, 
except for his service In Congress, and in Richmond as Vice 


President of the Confederacy, he never spent much time any 
where else. His whole existence was passed in this same little 
environment. He was born in Wilkes County, went to an 
academy in the same place, attended the University at Athens 
in the same neighborhood, studied law and took up its practice 
at Crawfordville, three miles away, and confined his political 
and professional life to the surrounding region. 

While Vice President, Stephens spent little time in Rich 
mond; always he felt the pull of home. And this love for one 
spot of earth developed with him into a passion. Lovingly 
his recollection lingers over this piece of Georgia earth and 
the ugly frame house that made his lifelong abode. 'That part 
of my life which is by far the most interesting," Stephens 
wrote in 1856, "was that which was spent on the 'old home 
stead' under the paternal roof, and In the family circle. That 
was the 'day-dawn period' with me. . . . The most liberal in 
ducements were offered me to go to Columbus and become one 
of a firm. This I declined for no other reason but a fixed deter 
mination I had formed never to quit, if I could avoid it, those 
places nearest my heart, where I had played as well as toiled 
in my youth, about which I had so often dreamed in my orphan 
wanderings. This is what kept me in Crawfordville." The 
summer of 1865 Stephens spent as a prisoner at Fort Warren, 
Boston, every day expecting summons to a trial for treason; in 
his lonely cell the thought of this Georgia rooftree frequently 
moved him to tears. "No mortal," he wrote in his Diary at 
this time, "ever had stronger attachments for his home than 
I for mine. That old homestead and that quiet lot. Liberty 
Hall, in Crawfordville, sterile and desolate as they may seem 
to others, are bound to me by associations tender as heart 
strings and strong as hooks of steel. There I wish to live 
and die." "Let my last breath be in my native air ! My native 
land, my country, the only one that is country to me Is 
Georgia. The winds that sweep over her hills are my native 
air. There I wish to live and there to die 1" 


One will search the writings of Jefferson Davis in vain for 
any such apostrophe to Mississippi, DaviYs enthusiasm* as al 
ready noted, was for the South as a whole for the new 
Southern nation whereas the allegiance of Stephens did 
not extend much beyond Georgia. And these different outlooks 
determined the two men's political ideas- As the war went on, 
Davis more and more became the Southern nationalist, while 
Stephens seemed to grow ever stronger in his loyalty to the 
state. At times, indeed, Stephens is the great pedant of that 
doctrine. His arguments are scholastic, fine-spun, frequently 
very tedious. His discourses on "centralization," "the Federal 
Compact," "state sovereignty," and the rest are more im 
portant than the similar discourses of Jefferson Davis, for 
with Stephens they represent a creed which he literally car 
ried out in his public life greatly to the discomfiture of the 
Confederacy. With him these things were not empty logic- 
chopping but realities intended to guide the life of a people. 
Such were the convictions Stephens advocated in the Federal 
sphere from 1843 to 1859* In all the disputations of that time, 
he was one of the most forceful participants* In the many 
crises from the Mexican War to John Brown's raid, this 
energetic and half-sepulchral figure, his dark eyes blazing with 
indignation, his bony arms waving with feverish emphasis, 
was a startling sight. There were even times when Stephens 
seemed to be a great orator. One impartial judge at least he 
deeply Impressed. "I take up my pen," wrote Abraham Lincoln 
to William H. Herndon, February 2, 1848, "to tell you that 
Mr. Stephens, of Georgia, a little, slim, pale-faced consumptive 
man, with a voice like Logan's, has just concluded the very best 
speech of an hour's length I ever heard. My old withered dry 
eyes are full of tears yet*" 2 This speech affected Lincoln be 
cause it radiated the quality that was conspicuous in Stephens, 
as well as in himself. That was consummate honesty. Nothing 
shocked Lincoln so much in that period as President Folk's 

2 Abraham Lincoln; Complete Wwks t VoL II, p. 111. 


justifying statement on invading Mexico that he was re 
pelling an attack from that country. This hypocrisy also 
aroused Stephens to the height of eloquence that Lincoln 
described. The common feeling on this basis was what brought 
Lincoln and Stephens into a sympathetic friendship. 



All this time Stephens was leading a strange inner life. 
He was a man of introspective, morbid psychology. To under 
stand his character and the part he played in the Confederacy, 
this fact must be properly appraised. Few men ever wrote so 
many revelatory letters or indulged so remorselessly in self- 
analysis. Practically every day he wrote a long letter to 
the u light of my life," as Stephens calls his half brother 
Linton. Sometimes these epistles were so distressingly ego 
centric that Linton, in mercy for his brother's standing with 
posterity, destroyed them. Seldom has a correspondent so 
immersed himself in Stygian gloom. Introspective, self-tor 
turing, hypersensitive, frequently reduced to tears, always 
shrinking from the vulgarities and obscenities of existence, 
furiously longing for that applause from humankind which 
he affects to despise, with it all profoundly religious and 
idealistic, high-minded and intensely ambitious seldom has 
so bewildered and anguished a psyche been let loose in a matter- 
of-fact world. 

"To live to-day and to be warm" - such is his idea of life 
"to move and to think; tomorrow to be silent, cold and 
dead; devoid of mind and sense, fast mouldering into dust, 
fit food for worms." "Life is but a dreamy pilgrimage 
through an inhospitable clime." Man's part is "over moun 
tains and in deep and dark valleys, through bogs and morasses, 
beset on all sides by brambles and thorns, by knats, mousqui- 
toes, stinging insects, flies, and venemous reptiles." Cheer- 


ful communications of this sort Stephens was accustomed to 
address to Linton even during the Christmas season. The 
torments suffered from the disregard of his fellow men are 
duly set forth. "I have often had my whole soul instantly 
aroused with the fury of a lion by so slight a thing as a lookl 
What have I not suffered from a lookl What have I not suf 
fered from the tone of a remark, from a sense of neglect, 
from a supposed injury, from an intended injury l n Despite 
all this, the man had a sense of humor. He describes how he 
was curing himself of his mental disease by homeopathic treat 
ment by reading the Anatomy of Melancholy, And he had 
all the joy of self-pity. The secret of his life was something 
that he called rather ineptly, he admits "revenge re 
versed." Perhaps by this Stephens anticipated the word "com 
pensation" of which so much is heard these days. He repaid 
the "contumely of men' 1 by rising superior to it "by doing 
them good instead of harm." Thus the long black night of his 
existence on the whole proved to be a boon to his fellows* 
For it was Stephens's purpose, in his own words, "to master 
evil with good and to leave no foe standing in my rear. 
My greatest courage has been drawn from my greatest 

A modern age would have no difficulty in finding another 
"secret" for Stephens's maladjustment. For a nature of such 
keen sensibility, the absence of the domestic satisfactions must 
have amounted to little less than continual agony. This little 
caricature of physical man clearly regarded himself as a kind 
of Cyrano de Bergerac a beautiful soul tragically encased 
in a most unprepossessing frame* This fact, in his morbid 
view, forever exiled him from a, domestic hearth; love and 
wife and children were not for him* However, Stephens's life 
was not a solitary one; a proper insistence on his melancholy 
should not cause one to overlook a more genial side. Despite 
his sick body and sick mind, men and women flocked to him; 
the home at Liberty Hall was constantly filled with guests; 


and his conversation, not so occupied with self-analysis as his 
letters, could frequently start roars of laughter. For the most 
part, however, his life was lonely. Having no wife or children, 
it almost seems as though he centred on another adoration. 
The man's character presents a series of contradictions, and 
nothing seems less in keeping with his Confederate career than 
his worship of the Constitution of the United States. "If 
idolatry could ever be excused," he said, in 1845, "it would 
be in allowing an American citizen a holy devotion to the 
Constitution of his country." 8 Four years of civil war did not 
diminish this piety. In July, 1865, when imprisoned in Fort 
Warren, Stephens wrote Secretary Seward: "I know that no 
man more true, more loyal, so ardently devoted to the Con 
stitution of the United States and the principles of civil and 
religious liberty it embodies than I am ever breathed the vital 
air of heaven." 4 Lincoln's feeling for the Union, it has been 
said, had a mystical quality, and the same was true of the 
reverence which Stephens always felt for the charter on which 
that Union rested. Here was perhaps the source of the sym 
pathy which drew the two men together. 

But there was another statesman whom Stephens ranked 
above Lincoln. No American, he believed, compared for a 
moment with Daniel Webster; one of the most conspicuous 
ornaments of Liberty Hall was a bust of the New England 
statesman, the man who, in the "quality of moral greatness 11 
Stephens put on a higher plane than either of his contempo 
raries, Clay and Calhoun. So greatly did he esteem Webster 
that, in 1852, Stephens deserted both the old parties and at 
tempted to organize a new one to make Daniel President. In 
the election of 1852, Stephens cast his vote for Webster 
though at the time that statesman was in his grave. It was 
Webster, the orator of Union, the expounder of the Constitu 
tion, the leader whose patriotism embraced no one section but 

8 Recollections, p. 95. 
p. 372. 


all parts of the United States this was the man whom 
Stephens revered above all contemporary Americans. 

Despite this, Stephens took Issue with his favorite preceptor 
on his fundamental Constitutional tenet that the document 
had created an integrated nation, not a loosely organized 
league of states. To this latter view Stephens adhered with 
all the syllogistic loquacity of a hair-splitting metaphysician, 
He admired the American Constitution above all earthly 
forms of government because, he never wearied of Insisting, 
it had created precisely such an ideal society. His devotion 
to the document was like Jefferson's, who always protested 
his love of u the Constitution properly understood.** And 
that his own understanding was unimpeachable* Stephens never 
entertained the slightest doubt* The supreme achievement of 
this Constitution, as framed by the founders of 1787, was its 
concentration of "absolute, ultimate sovereignty" in the several 
states. Any theory that ran counter to this transcendent reserva 
tion was simply treason- The greatest critique of the Constitu 
tion he regarded as that which had been formulated by Jeffer 
son In his Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, in which this 
fundamental thesis was displayed In irrefutable terms. Each 
state, under the Federal compact, was a sovereign, practically 
independent nation* Had then a state a right to secede a 
constitutional right, that Is, not a revolutionary one? To 
Stephens this right was as unassailable as truth itself. Had 
it, under this same instrument, the right to maintain slavery? 
Stephens simply pointed to those clauses which, If they did not 
authorize this system In so many words, certainly recognized 
and protected it. Was the right to take one's slaves into the 
territories the argument that resulted in civil war guar 
anteed by this same fountain of wisdom? Who could believe 
otherwise ? Had not the Supreme Court of the United States, 
the final arbiter, decided the question in the affirmative? It 
was precisely because the Constitution did not organize a 
"Central Despotism," because it reserved sovereignty to the 


individual states, because it left the state's social and labor 
systems at its own discretion, because it permitted states to 
"resume their sovereignty" when circumstances, in their judg 
ment, warranted such action, that Stephens regarded the 
Union it had formed as the greatest political achievement of 
man. Hence his love for that Union to maintain which had 
been, all his life, "my earnest desire, my highest aspiration/' 



That, at several crises, Stephens had fought, in his own 
Georgia, to preserve the Union, was no empty boast. And in 
this work he had formed one of a famous triumvirate of 
Georgia leaders three men destined to play a conspicuous 
role in the Confederate States. His two co-workers in this 
noble enterprise had been Robert Toombs and Howell Cobb. 
Both these statesmen afterward became so identified with 
Secession that their earlier cooperation against Southern forces 
of disruption has been overlooked. Especially has fate dealt 
unjustly with Toombs. In the popular mind to-day Toombs 
is looked upon as the typical, swaggering Southern browbeater, 
constantly aflame with imprecations against the North, loud 
mouthed, threatening, ferocious in his language, uncompromis 
ing and destructive in his acts. Most Americans have forgotten 
that for the larger part of his political life he was a Whig, a 
member of the party in the South for decades influenced by loy 
alty to the Union. Toombs was one of the ablest Southerners of 
his generation, its greatest parliamentarian and debater, and, in 
many ways, its most far-seeing and well-balanced statesman. 
Personally, it is true, he was a rather rough-hewn character* 
Not without significance is it that his favorite figure in litera 
ture and his reading reached far was Falstaff. In many 
ways he resembled immortal Jack, His huge bulky frame, with 
well-developed abdomen, his great round head, surmounted 


by a mane of unruly brown hair, his loud, roaring voice, given 
to ready jest and incessant epigram, his fondness for hard 
liquor a habit that in his last years became a vice all 
this made him fellow to the rollicking knight of Gadshill. 
Certain less agreeable Falstaffian traits Toombs did not pos 
sess; he was not a foolish braggart, least of all a coward; his 
family life was above reproach. But it was certainly a strange 
fortune that made Toombs the intimate friend of Stephens, 
who, if the former came to be regarded as the Falstaff of the 
Confederacy, may be considered its Hamlet. It is even stranger 
that a small area in Georgia roughly a northeastern seg 
ment of the cotton belt, bordering on the Savannah River 
should have produced all three men whom many consider the 
ablest leaders of the South Stephens, Toombs, and Howell 

As young men and beginning lawyers, Stephens and Toombs 
were thrown into close association. Together they traveled the 
circuit, occupying the same rooms in hotels, eating their meals 
side by side, constantly helping each other in knotty legal 
problems* They entered Congress at almost the same time, 
and in Washington the bachelor Stephens found a most hospi 
table home with Toombs and his wife. When apart, the two 
men constantly corresponded, and usually they were sym 
pathetic on public questions. That the anemic Stephens should 
have found his closest friend in the athletic Toombs, as open- 
minded m his religious convictions as Stephens was pious, as 
Rabelaisian in speech as the little companion was circumspect, 
as bibulous and Gargantuan in self-indulgence as the other was 
self-denying this showed that Stephens had human qualities 
making him attractive to the more masculine type* And both 
were men of intellect if Stephens was a bodiless brain, 
Toombs's mental power was almost as overwhelming as his 
physical presence; and both held similar ideas on the Union 
and the problems of the forties and fifties* 



Born in 1810, the son of a rich cotton planter and Revo 
lutionary veteran ; expelled or practically expelled from 
the State University for card playing, then educated at Union 
College, Schenectady, and the University of Virginia; at thirty 
among the most successful and prosperous lawyers of his 
native state, Toombs went through the several political 
gradations, until, in 1844, he found himself installed in Con 
gress, as representative of the still powerful Whig party, and 
spokesman of the more moderate phases of the rising slavery 
dispute. Already he was a marked character, not only as a 
man of ability and political power, but as one of the most 
magnetic human beings in Washington. Throughout Georgia, 
despite his comparative youth, Toombs was a personal figure 
of almost legendary significance. There were few citizens of 
the Eastern circuit who did not know him well. Stories of 
his prowess on the hustings, quotations from the impromptu 
speeches at which he was so expert, anecdotes of his varying 
public moods, his fierceness in the face of injustice, his tender 
ness to the underdog, his hilarious laughter, his witty and 
fluent speech, filled every corner of the land. Like Lincoln, 
Toombs was the genial comrade in courthouse yards, taverns, 
stagecoaches, and other meeting places of the common man. 
He entertained the mob with stories, offhand speeches, and 
rapid give-and-take conversation. The young aristocrat was one 
of those companionable souls who will discuss all questions, 
even the most intimate ones, with chance acquaintances. Even 
though, with all his bonhomie, Toombs now and then be 
came brusque towards dissentients, it was this personal quality 
that largely explained his rapid stride in public life. 

This reputation naturally preceded him to Washington, and 
the whole capital was on tiptoe with expectancy. Nor did he 
prove a disappointment. The report that Toombs was to 


speak quickly filled the galleries. What made the man so in 
teresting was his unexpectedness. He was a genius In debate 
because he almost never conned his speeches in advance, al 
ways depending on the circumstances of the moment for inspira 
tion. His extemporaneous speeches rolled out with ease and 
swiftness, and his readiness in retort made him a terror to 
hecklers. On a second's notice his bulky frame would rise, his 
deep Southern voice never pausing for word or idea, his leo 
nine head shaking in monitory earnestness, his stubby finger 
pointing opprobriously at the foe; and sometimes the great 
form would parade up and down the aisle* Meanwhile the 
speaker's argument, now menacing, now defiant, part persua 
sion, part mere assertion and epigram, would hold a dozen 
Congressmen at bay. On few orators has such extravagance of 
praise been bestowed by contemporaries* Some compared 
Toombs to Charles James Fox - rather to the disparagement 
of the Englishman; others saw in him a reincarnation of 
Mirabeau, What is plain is that, irrespective of oratory or ex 
position, Toombs was one of the greatest debaters that Wash 
ington has seen. 

His achievement was the more remarkable In that, at this 
early period, the themes of Toombs's eloquence were not the 
sort that usually stir legislative chambers. On the subject that 
was the great inspiration of oratory at that time "our sable 
population," as Toornbs liked to refer to It he was not the 
most conspicuous performer. It is strange that those who 
searched for European counterparts should have overlooked 
William E. Gladstone, for, like the already famous British 
statesman, Toombs was at his best in finance and fiscal policy. 
As with his British contemporary, the most abstruse financial 
problems yielded their secrets when Toombs proceeded to 
dissect them; and, in his hands, things like treasury balances 
and tariff schedules took on romantic quality* He was no 
dilettante, In this or other matters; few more thorough stu 
dents of public documents ever graced the chamber. Toombs's 


Democratic successors of to-day might profitably read his 
speech in 1844 expressing horror at the increase in appropria 
tions; at that time the Federal Government was spending 
$30,000,000 a year ! The designation "pork barrel" had not yet 
been invented, but the practice had been, and no fiercer critic 
of money spent for local purposes ever existed than Robert 
Toombs. "Bills for depleting the Treasury" is what he called 
these measures. "I will give you millions for proper legisla 
tion, but not one cent for jobs!" He turned a particularly 
fierce eye on New York state, believed to be especially skillful 
at extracting favors of this kind, and just as severely criticized 
the Southern states who similarly fed at the public crib. "I 
do not want a dollar of public money expended in the state 
of Georgia," he would say. Toombs, as a consistent Whig, 
favored a moderate protective tariff, but mercilessly ex 
posed the statesmen, even those of his own South, who put 
forth exorbitant demands. In the Senate, he enjoyed holding 
up to ridicule that shining Democrat, Judah P. Benjamin, 
who violated all the principles of his party by advocating 
huge tariff favors for the sugar planters of Louisiana. One 
of Stephens's first expressions of disgust at Jefferson Davis as 
Confederate President was that he made Toombs his first 
Secretary of State. Had he selected him as Secretary of the 
Treasury, Stephens always opined, the story of the Con 
federate Government would have been a very different one. 
But naturally the one absorbing topic of the day presently 
assumed first place in Toombs's Congressional work. He had 
the fatal gift of epigram, and aphorisms, some falsely and 
some truly attributed to him, have distorted his real character. 
Thus the statement one he denied ever having made that 
he would some day "call the roll of his slaves at the foot of 
Bunker Hill monument," has given a twisted idea of his at 
titude on the Southern question. Posterity has insisted on re 
garding him as one of the irreconcilable agents of the slave 
power. It is therefore something of a surprise to learn that 


Toombs, like Lincoln and Stephens, opposed President Polk 
and his Mexican War. And the reasons for the Georgian's 
hostility? Such a war would lead to the acquisition of Mexican 
territory and that in turn would precipitate a disastrous argu 
ment on slavery. The really serious matter was that It would 
endanger the Union. For Toombs, though a thoroughgoing 
proslavery man, and never disposed to yield an inch on what 
he regarded as the fundamentals of that policy, was almost as 
much a worshiper of the Union and Constitution as Stephens 
himself. Once the Mexican War had ended, however, with 
all the dire effect on domestic tranquillity that Toombs had 
foretold, he accepted the result and became an unyielding 
champion of the "rights'* of the South in the new territory* 
Still he was no extremist, no follower of Jefferson Davis, in 
a course that, if pursued as Davis was pursuing it, meant seces 
sion and civil war in 1850. 

Davis opposed the admission of California with a no-slavery 
constitution, but Toombs favored such admission. Davis fought 
the organization of New Mexico as a territory without mak 
ing it a slave country; Toombs was willing to leave that ques 
tion to local determination. Davis opposed attempts to elimi 
nate the slave trade from the District of Columbia ; Toombs 
favored such prohibition. Davis promoted the Nashville 
Convention, an indirect move towards secession in 1850; 
Toombs combated that proposal* Davis opposed the Com 
promise measures of 1850; Toombs supported them with all 
his eloquence. No man more earnestly fought Calhoun's plan 
for organizing a sectional Southern party in 1849; no party 
that was not continental in sweep found favor m his eyes. 
"The temper of the North is good/* he wrote, a and with 
kindness and patronage skillfully adjusted, I think we can 
work out of present troubles, preserve the Union and disap 
point bad men and traitors." The ail-important difference be 
tween Toombs and Stephens, on the one hand, and Davis, 
Yancey, and Rhett, on the other, appeared in those words 


"Union and Constitution." The latter group, even in 1850, 
were the advocates of Southern independence and a Southern 
Confederacy, with African slavery, even the revival of the slave 
trade, as the foundation stone ; the Toombs-Stephens coalition 
were believers in the existing national system and regarded 
those who were undermining it, in Toombs's own words, as 
"bad men and traitors." 



This aspiration was embodied in the name of the party 
which Toombs and Stephens, with Howell Cobb, organized 
in Georgia, to solidify the loyalty of that state to the Com 
promise of 1850. They called it the "Constitutional Union" 
party; its aim was thus to preserve the Constitution and witE 
it the existing central government. The enlistment of Howell 
Cobb in this new cause gave it the desirable quality of non- 
partisanship. Both Toombs and Stephens were Whigs, al 
ways the compromising element, but Cobb was a Democrat 
of ancient breed, and Democrats were contenders for the most 
advanced Southern claims. Moreover, Cobb was one of the 
bluest of Georgia blue bloods. At a time when prosperity 
in the South signified property in slaves, Cobb was the Rocke 
feller of the region. One thousand black sons of Africa cul 
tivated his plantations. That a magnate of Cobb's standing 
should have joined contentious Whigs in 1850 in opposing 
disunionist movements had influential results, not only on those 
stirring events, but upon the subsequent Confederacy. His 
independence at this time made him deadly enemies in his 
native Georgia, as well as in all the cotton states; but for 
the hostility aroused by this championship Cobb would prob 
ably have been chosen President of the Confederate States, 
instead of Davis ; in the opinion of many, he was immeasurably 
better fitted for that office. 


Cobb was a massive creature, physically and mentally; a 
huge head, surmounted by billowy, abundant locks; great, wide, 
steady gray eyes, half searching* half pensive; a generous 
beak of a nose; an arching mouth, proclaiming thought and 
kindness, rather than geniality; a rippling double, even triple, 
chin, advancing through the spaces of a mighty wing collar; 
the broadest of shoulders, the bulkiest of bodies here in 
deed was the type of the well-fed, confident, long-established 
Georgia aristocrat* Already honors appropriate to his birth 
and social standing, as well as to his political aptitudes, had 
come to Cobb. Elected to Congress, in 1842, at the age of 
twenty-eight, he won sufficient prominence to be chosen Speaker 
of the House in 1849, when only thirty-four; he was made 
Governor of Georgia in 1851, finally capping his career in the 
national field by becoming Secretary of the Treasury in 
Buchanan's Cabinet having declined a previous invitation 
as Secretary of State. Such progress, at a time when the 
average of ability In American public life stood high, bespeaks 
character and attainments. Cobb possessed both. His fine 
parliamentary manners, his consummate courtesy* especially 
to Northern opponents, made him a popular figure in Wash 
ington ; his speeches were never disfigured by sectional rancor, 
and his nationalistic point of view on questions arising from 
the Mexican War, while it may have angered extreme South 
ern partisans, evidenced a broad-minded statesmanship* 

Howell Cobb's leadership in the early days of the Con* 
federacy, as in the case of Stephens and Toombs, has mis* 
led historians in estimating his public work. Even Mr. Rhodes 
asserts that his "devotion to slavery and Southern interests 
was the distinguishing feature of his character,'* * This sum 
mary is fair in a sense, but it does not tell the whole story* 
In his early period Cobb upheld unorthodox Southern views; 
he did not believe, for example, in the right of secession- His 
writings against this sacred tenet came up to plague him in 

* History of the Visited States, by Jame* Ford Rhodes, Vol. J f* 117* 

W 00 







after years. Especially did he ridicule the right of those new 
states, such as Mississippi and Louisiana, to withdraw at will 
from the Union. These communities were mere swamp and 
forest when the Constitution was framed; most of the territory 
of which they were formed had been purchased with Federal 
money ; all that they were they owed to the Federal Govern 
ment; how absurd to fancy that they could constitutionally 
depart from that guardianship ! Cobb was another of the half 
dozen Southern Democrats who refused to join John C. 
Calhoun in his attempt to form a proslavery party in 1849. 
All over the South this young, daring Georgian was known 
as "the man who had opposed Calhoun." Cobb, in fact, was 
a Jacksonian Democrat, and, as such, an enemy of nullifica 
tion and secession, and a Jacksonian devotee of the Union. 
In consequence, much to the astonishment of his fellow 
Southerners, and possibly to his own, he found himself in 1850 
companion to Stephens and Toombs, fervent Whigs, in their 
effort to detach Georgia from the Secession movement then 
being engineered by Mississippi and South Carolina. Cobb 
had more to lose by this action than Stephens or Toombs, for 
he was a Democrat while they were Whigs; his behavior 
was courageous and public-spirited, a clear case of sacrificing 
his own interest to conviction. 

This the future proved. Cobb's political progress perhaps 
even the Presidency of the United States, for his qualifications 
for that office were heralded at the time all lay with the 
extreme Democratic side; political annihilation seemed to 
await any Southern Democratic leader who joined the foe in 
giving comfort to slavery restrictionists. But Cobb never 
hesitated. His love for the Union was his all-persuasive emo 
tion. He flouted Davis, Rhett, and Yancey and their Nash 
ville movement; he supported Clay's Compromise and hailed 
its passage as a happy milestone in American history. When 
Georgia irreconcilables still proved recalcitrant, joining their 
Mississippi and South Carolina confreres in continued re- 


sistance, Cobb and Toombs and Stephens organized the "Con 
stitutional Union" party, to uphold the banner of a united 
country. The plan succeeded beyond all expectations. Georgia 
had never witnessed such a campaign; the triumvirate were 
day and night on the stump; the canvass had the flavor of a 
religious revival, and the awakening of Union sentiment was 
profound. This puissant trio overwhelmingly defeated both 
the old parties; Cobb was elected Governor, Toombs Senator, 
and Stephens was again returned to Congress. This new 
burst of national feeling in Georgia was to a large extent 
responsible for a similar enthusiasm in other states, even in 
Mississippi and South Carolina. As recorded in a previous 
chapter, the corresponding rise of Unionism in these supposedly 
hidebound secession areas resulted in the retirement to pri 
vate life of Jefferson Davis and Robert Barnwell RhetL To 
that result Cobb, Stephens, and Toombs had eloquently con 

Eighteen-fifty and 18601 the change that ten years had 
made in the national outlook, particularly in the South, 
presents one of the greatest contrasts in American annals. 
The excitements that followed the settlement of 1850 ex 
plain this altered prospect The rise of Stephen A. Douglas, 
the reopening of the slavery issue, the ascendency of Jefferson 
Davis in the Cabinet of Franklin Pierce, Kansas-Nebraska 
bills, fugitive slave laws, the repeal of the Missouri Com 
promise, the struggle of the North to make the new West free 
and of the South to make it slave, John Brown's raid, Uncle 
Tom's Cabin, Helper's Impending Crisis, the organization of 
the Republican Party, the Dred Scott decision, Lincoln- 
Douglas debates, the culminating blow of Lincoln's election 
to the Presidency here were the forces that made the United 
States a different country in 1860 from that ten years before. 
The solution of slavery troubles to which the Georgia trinity 
had made such substantial contributions in 1 850 was completely 
undone. Not only had these events, with the fierce discussions 


to which they gave rise, the sectional antagonisms they had 
aroused, produced a completely changed national prospect; 
they had as completely reversed the attitude of public men, 
particularly in the South. Especially had Toombs and Cobb 
receded from their earlier attitudes. Cobb, who in 1850 had 
held up to scorn the right of secession, acknowledged that 
right in 1861. Toombs, who had spent his splendid energy 
and matchless eloquence preaching Union in 1850, stood out 
as one of the most unmitigated disruptionists a decade later. 
In December, 1860, Cobb resigned from Buchanan's Cabinet, 
in disgust at that vacillating statesman's effort to play honest 
broker between the sections of a disintegrating country. A 
month afterward, Toombs had become the most vituperative 
Senator from the South. His harangue on leaving the Senate 
in January, 1861, is not yet forgotten. In this the u black Re 
publicans" appeared as the "perfidious authors of this mis 
chief." u The Union, Sir, is dissolved . . . You see the glitter 
ing bayonet, and you hear the tramp of armed men from yon 
capitol to the Rio Grande. It is a sight that gladdens the eye 
and cheers the hearts of other men ready to second them." 
Abraham Lincoln "is an enemy of the human race and deserves 
the execration of all mankind." Ignoring the valiant fight he 
had once made for the Constitution, Toombs now declared that 
it had been a mistake from the first. The South would have 
been better off had it never been adopted. Patrick Henry and 
Samuel Adams had been right in fighting it! The "glittering 
generalities" of the Declaration of Independence were held 
up to ridicule. Toombs defied the North to attempt to keep 
the South in the Union. "Come and do it I . . . Georgia is 
on the war pathl We are as ready to fight now as we ever 
shall be. Treason? Bah I" The furious statesman stalked out 
of the chamber, walked up to the Treasury, demanded what 
was due him in Senatorial salary and mileage back to his home 
state. Cobb was not so intemperate in manner, but his senti 
ments were about the same. 


The third member of the old Union companionship, however, 
Alexander H. Stephens, was, in January, 1861, still a Union 
man. He still held by the Constitution and still insisted that 
secession would be a mistake. To the last moment he strove 
to prevent Georgia from taking what he regarded as an un 
justifiable step. In November of 1860 one of the most stirring 
scenes in the history of the South took place In the Georgia 
Legislature. South Carolina had not yet started the secession 
parade, yet there was a certainty that she would soon do so; 
the question in Georgia was, should this previously strong 
Union Commonwealth follow the example? At this time 
there was a powerful Union sentiment in the Georgia com 
munity; in fact, when the moment came for the vote, on Jan 
uary 19, 1861, in the special convention called to take action, 
there were 164 in favor of secession and 131 against a 
majority indeed for taking the state out of the Union, but, 
at the same time, a most substantial minority opposed* The 
meeting of the Legislature that had authorized this conven 
tion took place in early November, 1860, At that time Union 
and Disunion sentiment was rather evenly divided* A high 
state of excitement prevailed and the two parties to the dispute 
were almost at one another's throats* In this dilemma the 
Legislature adopted an unusual procedure: it invited its most 
conspicuous public men to address it on the pending crisis. 
The most famous of these u elder statesmen*' were Robert 
Toombs and Alexander H. Stephens* Their speeches were 
published far and wide, forming a landmark in a drama every 
day becoming more tense. Toombs spoke first, putting the case 
for secession in powerful, if intemperate, words. There were 
few evidences, in his scathing arraignment of the North, of 
the Compromise and Constitution advocate of ten years be 
fore, Secession, Southern Confederacy, and war, bloody war 
this one-time Whig and curber of extremists was now 
ready for anything. His good friends of the North had now 
become "negro-stealers," breakers of their "oft-repeated 


oaths," tariff schemers who levied tribute on the South at 
the same time that they sought to destroy its property, inciters 
of John Brown raids, murderers who applied "the assassin's 
knife and the poisoned bowl to you and your family." "Do 
you not love these brethren? Oh, what a glorious Union, 
especially to insure 'domestic tranquillity 7 1" "Strike while it 
is yet time!" "Throw the bloody spear into this den of in 
cendiaries!" "Withdraw yourselves from such a Confederacy; 
it is your right to do so; your duty to do so. Make another 
war of independence; fight its battles over again; reconquer 
liberty and independence." 

To exclamations of this sort Stephens the next evening 
made an even more stirring answer. At that time the diminu 
tive orator regarded his public career as ended. Less than a 
year before he had declined renomination to Congress and 
retired to private life. And now Stephens was facing the 
Georgia Legislature in his last attempt to save the Constitu 
tion and the Union. On the speaker's rostrum sat Toombs, 
who frequently interrupted his friend's discourse. A slight 
rift had taken place in this friendship, caused by the difference 
in opinion concerning the existing crisis an estrangement 
that was quickly healed, when the larger conflict became a 
reality. Stephens's speech, which was extemporaneous, lasted 
for two hours. It was a refutation of Toombs's argument of 
the evening before. Its tenor was that the hour "to strike 1" 
in Toombs's words, had not yet arrived. As always with 
Stephens in such contingencies, the chief emphasis was laid on 
the Constitution. He was as much its devotee in 1860 as he 
had been in 1850. "If our hopes are to be blasted, if the 
Republic is to go down," he said, "let us be found to the last 
moment standing on the deck with the Constitution waving 
over our heads." "This government of our fathers, with all 
its defects, comes nearer the objects of all good government 
than any other on the face of the earth." 

"England," interjected Toombs. 


"Well, that is the next best, I grant!'* Stephens rejoined, 
u But I think we hare improved upon England. Statesmen 
tried their apprentice hands upon the government of England, 
and then ours was made. Ours sprang from that, avoiding 
many of its defects, and leaving out many of Its errors, and 
from the whole our fathers constructed and built up this 
model Republic the best which the history of the world 
gives any account of*" 

It was this worship of the Constitution which led Stephens 
to oppose secession. Why was South Carolina on the brink 
of departure, why were many Georgians advocating a South 
ern Confederacy? Because, Stephens said, Abraham Lincoln 
had been elected President! That was the only argument for 
thrusting the nation into an abyss. The South did not like the 
candidate the American people had chosen for the White 
House. He was the candidate of a sectional Northern party; 
not a single electoral vote had been cast for him south of 
the Potomac; in many states he had not received a solitary 
popular vote, for in these states no Republican ticket had been 
put into the field. All this, Stephens admitted* was true* The 
South feared Lincoln because his announced policy meant that 
the slavery system could not be extended into the new western 
country. Ultimately, Southerners insisted, it meant the aboli 
tion of slavery in the old slave states. Therefore, the only 
course to take, as Toombs had urged, was "to strike I strike, 
while there is yet time!" withdraw from a Union that was 
hostile to their labor system, and set up a Confederacy that 
would insure its safety forever. But now Stephens pro 
pounded a few ideas on the other side. In the first place, no 
one denied that Lincoln's election had been strictly con 
stitutional. He had been chosen head of the nation in definite 
compliance with the provisions of the basic instrument. To 
rebel against this orderly constitutional process would be little 
less than to desecrate the national charter. But, it was urged, 
Lincoln had been elected on a platform that pledged him to 


violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court had ruled that 
slavery could not be prohibited in the territories. Lincoln 
was determined on such a prohibition. His speeches for several 
years had denounced the Supreme Court for that very decision; 
he had openly declared his desire to obtain a tribunal that 
would reverse it. But, pleaded Stephens, you could not make 
war on a President for his words. Only for his acts. Should 
Lincoln, after his inauguration, attempt to disregard this 
judicial arbitrament and to restrain the South from its 
"right" in the territories, then he would be guilty of "overt 
acts" that would justify extreme measures. 

However, the speaker insisted, there was not the slightest 
chance of this. At the election of 1860, the Democrats had 
indeed lost the Presidency, but a Senate and a House of 
Representatives had been elected that were safely Democratic. 
Lincoln could do nothing in the face of the Congressional ma 
jority against him. The Supreme Court was still Southern in 
its membership; the majority that had rendered the Dred 
Scott decision was still intact, and would remain so for years. 
The "black Republicans" had won an empty victory; the mere 
accident that their opponents had three candidates in the field 
had given them the Presidency; but in the real contest, that 
for the control of Congress, the Democrats had triumphed. In 
all the disasters of the preceding ten years the North had 
been guilty of only one transgression in the South. In only one 
respect, that is, had it run counter to the Constitution. That 
was in its refusal to surrender fugitive slaves, something 
Section 2 of Article IV required it to do. But that did not 
in itself justify secession; given a little time, and that error 
would be corrected. 

What would Mr. Stephens do if Georgia, in spite of all his 
admonitions, decided to leave the Union? On that point the 
speaker's statement was just as precise as on the others. His 
gospel of State rights compelled him to recognize his state as 
"sovereign." His allegiance to that took precedence over his 


loyalty to the Federal "Compact." The decision of Georgia 
in this crisis would therefore become his own. He would go 
with his state, "Whatever the result may be I shall bow to the 
will of the people. Their cause is my cause, and their destiny 
is my destiny." 

And so it proved. The Legislature took the advice of 
Toombs and not that of Stephens. It called its Convention, of 
which Stephens became an unwilling member. This Convention, 
Stephens still fighting the movement and voting against it, 
decided to join the Confederacy, And Stephens, as he had 
promised, accepted the verdict and became a citizen of the 
government of which he so strongly disapproved. But his 
attitude at this moment, and for the preceding twenty years, 
was to have important consequences for his country. The 
views that men acquire in their formative years invariably, 
if unconsciously, exercise their influence on mature life. The 
disintegration of the Confederacy is not to be understood if 
the pre-war convictions of a large segment of Southerners, of 
whom Stephens was the most eloquent spokesman, are not 
considered. Stephens, always a Constitutionist, always a Union 
ist, did not enter the new government willingly; he was forced 
into it by local circumstances. His heart was never In the 
movement, and, even when serving as Vice President, he 
looked back longingly to the Union he had forsaken. The 
reluctant cooperation of Georgia made the Confederacy 
possible. Had that state refused the approaches of its neigh 
bors it might not have been formed; at least it would have 
presented a greatly weakened front* Georgia figured as the 
pivotal state not only in 1861, but in 1864-1865, and in this 
latter crisis its influence was directed to destroying the Con 
federacy it had played $o indispensable a part in erecting four 
years before. And Stephens was the leader in this disruptive 
movement as he had been In the antirecession attitude of 1861. 





STEPHENS at first refused to go to Montgomery as a delegate 
from Georgia. His spirit revolted from a convention assem 
bled to frame a government opposed to his beloved Union. 
He finally gave a kind of ultimatum, drawing up a set of 
resolutions; if the Georgia Convention would adopt these, 
Stephens declared, he would become a delegate. If not, then 
he washed his hands of the whole business ! These resolutions 
provided that any Constitution adopted by the South should 
be based upon that of the United States of America. In all 
essentials it should be the same, with such minor alterations 
in detail as the new situation might require. Georgia accepted 
his terms, unanimously approving these resolutions. Stephens 
then consented to be one of Georgia's ten representatives, and, 
in due course, left for the Alabama capital. 

Why did statesmen engaged in the lofty task of founding a 
new nation meet in so small, and comparatively unimportant 
a town as Montgomery? Why should they congregate at all 
in one of the new raw states of the Southwest? When the 
rebellious colonies, in 1776, decided on their bold move, they 
selected Philadelphia, one of the largest and most historic 
cities of America, as the scene of their declaration. The Con 
federate leaders, in 1861, liked to regard themselves as the 
spiritual inheritors of Washington and Franklin and their 
forthcoming gathering as directly descended from the Con 
tinental Congress. One fervid patriot proposed that the new 
government be called "The Republic of Washington"; an 
other suggested as its name "The Southern United States of 
America"; and there were those who even maintained that the 


Stars and Stripes be kept as the Confederate flag. They pro 
tested that all these things even the name United States 
really belonged to the South, and not to that northern section 
which had usurped them. Yet of the seven units that organized 
the Confederacy in its first incarnation, only two Georgia 
and South Carolina had been in existence in 1 776. When the 
Montgomery Convention assembled, Virginia, North Carolina, 
and Tennessee had not joined the movement and showed little 
likelihood of doing so. The Confederacy, as first formed, was 
a slice of the cotton belt: its states were new communities that 
had only lately emerged from the primeval forest. Raphael 
Senimes, afterward famous as captain of the Alabama, de 
scribed the new nation, in a letter to Howell Cobb, as "the 
Confederacy of the Cotton States"; that was precisely what 
it was. The pretty little town In which their delegates assembled 
was only about forty years old. Of the commonwealths in 
volved, Georgia and South Carolina were the aristocrats and 
one would naturally suppose that these older members would 
have taken a preferred position. Charleston or Columbia, 
South Carolina, Savannah, Augusta, or Milledgevllle, Georgia 
here the Confederacy might naturally seek a dignified birth 
place, instead of resorting to the new and, as It proved, In 
convenient town on the Alabama River* 

There was a theory, popular at the time* and upheld by 
such writers as Horace Greeley In the North and Edward A, 
Pollard in the South, that the whole movement, at the start, 
was a "conspiracy"; that it did not represent popular senti 
ment, but had been engineered by politicians in the interest of 
a minority of rich planters, determined, come what would, to 
protect their wealth and Increase it In other words, that the 
great Rebellion, like so many historic uprisings, was a plot 
ting of vested interests. Upholders of this economic Interpre 
tation even fix the date and place when it all began* It recalls 
a celebrated episode that, In fact or fable, served as a pre 
liminary to the Great War of 1914. Survivors of that era 


have not yet forgotten the "Potsdam Conference." On the 
eve of mobilization the Kaiser is supposed to have called a 
meeting of military and diplomatic chieftains at this ancient 
headquarters of the House of Hohenzollern. "Are you ready 
for war?" such was the question that he addressed to the 
assembled "key men" of the Reich; receiving a unanimous 
affirmative, the ultimatums began to fly. The South also had 
its "Potsdam Conference"; this convocation was held on the 
evening of January 5, 1861, in one of the very committee 
rooms of the National Capitol. The participants were the 
Senators of six of the seven states that afterward formed 
the Southern Confederacy. The situation was canvassed in 
detail, the military status examined, and plans for an aggres 
sive campaign determined. Telegrams were despatched to 
each of the state governments, recommending immediate se 
cession; the centres of disaffection were instructed to seize all 
Federal property in the neighborhood customhouses, forts, 
arsenals, lighthouses, mints. The seceded "sovereign states" 
were called upon to send delegates to a Convention to be 
held at Montgomery not later than February 15 for the for 
mation of a new government. On this critical evening, so it 
was said, Jefferson Davis was definitely selected as the Presi 
dent of the contemplated Republic. From this Senatorial "con 
spiracy" flowed all the transactions that led up to the Southern 
convention. That the states in question did secede, that Fed 
eral arsenals, customhouses, and other valuable buildings were 
seized, that the Montgomery Convention was held, that a 
Southern Confederacy was organized, that Jefferson Davis 
was elected President these events, following in rapid suc 
cession this Southern "Potsdam Conference," have given a 
semblance of truth to the narration. That its propounder 
should have been Edward Pollard, 1 editor of the Richmond 
Examiner, and ablest journalist of the Confederacy, made 

1 The Life of Jefferson Davis, With a Secret History of the Southern Confederacy. 
Chap. IV. 


the whole thing plausible; it was no invention of Yankee 
enemies, Moreover, such a Senatorial meeting undoubtedly 
did take place. There was no secrecy about it at the time. The 
news was officially published in the press; m his Rise and 
Fall* Jefferson Davis tells the story briefly, though denying 
the version to which Mr, Pollard gave currency. This sena 
torial conference doubtless acted as one incentive to secession, 
but that it precipitated the war upon a reluctant Southern 
people can hardly be maintained. 

Nor is it likely that Davis owed his selection as President 
to the initiative of his brother Senators. Their favorite, at 
the moment, seems to have been Robert M. T, Hunter of 
Virginia, Virginia's early association in the movement was 
evidently expected, a candidate who soon lost favor, on the 
charge that he was really a * 4 reconstructioni$t* ? the name 
used to describe Southerners who wished to patch up the 
quarrel. At this time Jefferson Davis, according to general 
belief, had no desire to become President Neither did his state 
of Mississippi prefer him for that honor* Both had marked out 
for this leader a more Napoleonic, or, as they would have said, 
a more Washingtonian role. Mississippi had already created 
an armed force of its own and given Davis command with a 
commission as major general* It was the expectation in this 
region, as it was with Davis himself, that this command would 
prove the stepping stone to the generalship of all the Southern 

Nor was the idea in itself absurd, Davis was a West Point 
graduate, he had served ten years in the Federal army, he 
had proved an able officer in the Mexican War, he had made 
an excellent record as Secretary of War in the Cabinet of 
Franklin Pierce. As to his capability in the field, his tactics 
at the Battle of Buena Vista had won high praise from no 
less an authority than the Duke of Wellington. Moreover, 
Davis was first of all a military man; his type of mind was 

2 Vol. I, p. 200 <tt s*q> 


autocratic, imperious, self-confident, better fitted to give com 
mand in war operations than to cooperate with a group of 
civilians in managing a government. His book on the Civil 
War is a great disappointment, for a significant reason: it 
touches only incidentally on the matters we most desire to 
hear from him, the civil and diplomatic side, and deals at 
length with the military history on which knowledge is abun 
dant from many sources. That illustrates Davis's type of 
mind. True, and this was probably what determined the 
choice, he was the "logical" candidate for President. He came 
from the deepest recesses of the Deep South, and represented 
more completely than any other man mentioned for the post 
the plutocratic cotton-growing section which was responsible 
for the war. For ten years he had been the foremost spokes 
man of the Southern pretensions which had finally ended in 
conflict. The dissolution of the Democratic party in Charles 
ton, in April, 1860, a dissolution leading directly to the 
election of Lincoln, was more his work than the work of 
any other man. There was therefore a certain propriety in 
placing upon him the task of piloting the South through a 
crisis for which he was so largely responsible. Other considera 
tions were important; above all, Davis possessed the dignity, 
the suavity, the correctness in personal and official behavior, 
the social position and manners, and the polished, if not in 
spired oratory desirable in the head of a Republic. 

One detail about this meeting of so-called Southern "con 
spirators" in the Washington Capitol should not be over 
looked. Here the first suggestion of Montgomery as the birth 
place of the future "Confederacy of the Cotton States" was 
made; at least, a diligent investigation has disclosed no prior 
mention. The town was centrally situated not an indispen 
sable requirement, as was shown in the selection of Richmond, 
a few months afterward. But it was not a convenient place for 
such a meeting; the hotel accommodations were wretched, and 
buildings for temporarily housing the new government inade- 


quate; above all, the place was infested with mosquitoes, 
which made the lives of the delegates miserable day and 
night. Health conditions were bad; Davis himself was ill a 
good part of the time. 

There was a pretty little Greek temple of a Capitol building 
standing on a hill, and in this on February 4 the forty-four 
delegates of the seceded states were called to order. They 
composed both a Constituent Assembly and a Congress, They 
were both Constitution makers and a legislative body. In the 
exaltation of the moment the members saw themselves as the 
heirs not only of the Continental Congress of 1776 but of the 
Constitutional Convention of 1787. In certain outward as 
pects at least the Montgomery proceeding did resemble these 
earlier convocations. It consisted of a single chamber. It rep 
resented states, not individuals, and each state, irrespective 
of size, had a single vote a vote determined by a poll of 
representatives from that unit. Like the Continental Congress 
and the Constitutional Convention, its sessions were secret, 
a fact that has furnished arguments to the proponents of the 
"conspiracy" charges, angered the newspapers at the time, 
and was particularly resented by the large contingent of 
ladies. Occasionally the galleries were opened to the populace, 
but the really important deliberations took place behind 
closed doors. 

This exclusiveness is only one reason why so little material 
survives to reconstruct the sessions. Of the Montgomery San- 
hedrin we know far less than of the great assemblies that 
adopted the Declaration of Independence and framed the 
Constitution. No detailed record was kept. A proposal that 
stenographers be employed to take down the debates was 
rejected. Only the most skeletonized journal was made by the 
secretary, and even this was carefully guarded from contem 
porary eyes, not being published until 1904, and then by the 
government of the United States. Mr. Edmund C Burnett's 
recently published volumes of letters written by members of 


the Continental Congress have given an intimate, day-by-day 
picture of the workings of that body. No one has yet essayed 
any such labors for the Montgomery Congress. Such letters 
of influential participants as have been printed of Howell 
Cobb, Toombs, Rhett, Barnwell, even Davis himself are 
scrappy and disappointing. Most unfortunate of all, there was 
no James Madison to make a painstaking abstract of debates 
for posterity. The only man who faintly and very faintly 
filled this place was Thomas R. R. Cobb, the brilliant 
younger brother of Howell Cobb, a delegate from Georgia 
and a member of the Committee that framed the permanent 
constitution. His letters to his wife and his hasty notes have 
been published, in part; but they are brief, not masterpieces 
of characterization, prejudiced by the writer's religious fanat 
icism and extreme slavery point of view, especially by chagrin 
over the failure of the Presidential ambitions he had nourished 
for the object of his idolatry that older brother who, in 
the view of many Southerners, then and since, should have 
been chosen President of the Confederacy. 

Still, anyone looking for the "atmosphere" and personality 
of this gathering is compelled to rely almost exclusively on 
the younger Cobb's day-by-day jottings. Phrases taken here 
and there do slightly reveal the prevailing emotions. Personal 
rivalries and antagonisms are inevitable whenever forty and 
more politicians come together, but these were pretty well 
kept under the surface at Montgomery. An overwhelming 
desire for harmony prevailed. Unanimity on all important 
decisions was held essential to success. The work of establish 
ing one nation and of destroying another seemed to be some 
thing that ought to be undertaken solemnly: personal ambi 
tions should be sacrificed to the public good, and above all, 
no outbreaks of hostility, no bickerings, no disintegrating 
quarrels should stain the new nation at its birth. Cobb's 
notes disclose this conviction; they also show that underlying 
the happy exterior plenty of human nature was at work. Let 


us take a few random extracts. u The universal feeling is to 
make Howell [that is, his brother, Howell Cobb] President 
of the Convention. As to the provisional President of the 
Confederacy, the strongest current is for Jeff Davis. Howell 
and Mr. Toombs are both spoken of and there seems to be a 
good deal of difficulty in settling down to any person.*' Even 
here that dislike of secession, so strong in Alexander Stephens, 
constantly raised its head. Alabama u is very much divided, 
some of the delegates being not only Reconstructionist, but 
absolutely Union men. The truth is there is a very bad state of 
things in this state. The minority are sullen and not disposed 
to yield to the fact of secession. 9 * "The Georgia delegation 
has already the most powerful influence on this convention 
and will undoubtedly control the concern." The Texas mem 
bers "are a very conceited crowd with very little of statesman 
ship among them. The weakest delegation here is from Missis 
sippi." "The atmosphere of this place is positively tainted 
with selfish, ambitious schemes for personal aggrandisement. 
I see it, hear it, feel it, and am disgusted with it." "The Con 
vention was organized to-day. Howell [Cobb] was elected 
President of the Convention by acclamation. . . . The break 
ers ahead of us are beginning to appear." "We cleared the 
galleries this morning and went into secret session. The out 
siders were very much outraged, especially the women. I am 
hopeful of more harmony today than I was last night. We are 
doing the most important work in 'secret session.' A member 
is expelled for divulging the matter in any manner* . . . Ben 
Hill 8 brought his wife with him and she is put out with the 
closed doors." "There is but little speculation as to the 
probable President. Jeff Davis is most prominent. Howell 
[Cobb] next. Toombs, Stephens, Yancey, and even 'Joe' 
Brown * are talked about." "Stephens is looming up for Presi 
dent since Howell's name has been almost withdrawn. I still 

8 A leading public man of Georgia. 

*The famous Governor of Georgia, of whom more will be heard in succeeding pages. 


think Davis has the best chance." "The crowd of Presidents 
in embryo is very large. I believe the government could be 
stocked with officers among them. 7 ' But the rivalry was soon 
ended, for on February 9, four days after the Convention had 
assembled, it elected Jefferson Davis President and Alexander 
H. Stephens Vice President. "The latter," wrote Cobb, "is 
a bitter pill to us, but we have swallowed it with as good a 
grace as we could. The man who has fought against our 
rights and liberty is selected to wear the laurels of our vic 

The writer's disappointment comes out in his general com 
ments on the Convention. "I am sick at heart with the daily 
manifestations of selfishness, intrigue, low cunning and mean 
ness among those who at this critical moment should have an 
eye single to the protection of their people." "It looks now 
as if there was nothing but office seeking." Cobb had no great 
enthusiasm for Davis, and his dislike of Stephens had become 
intense. Stephens's attitude against Secession and his hardly 
concealed contempt for an independent South had estranged 
both the Cobbs. Thomas Cobb, one of the most fanatical 
of all Secessionists, could not but grieve that Stephens, hold 
ing the views that he did, had been given second place in 
the Confederacy, and his conviction that this meant trouble 
was only too amply justified. 

He similarly showed insight in appraising Davis. The new 
President "is as obstinate as a mule. . . . Many are re 
gretting already his election." "President Davis dines at our 
table every day. He is chatty and tries to be agreeable. He is 
not great in any sense of the word. The power of will has 
made him all that he is." This correspondent touches on quali 
ties that were to make trouble in the next four years. "Mr. 
Davis acts for himself and receives no advice except from 
those who press their advice unasked." "Mr. Davis has not 
honored a man from Georgia, save Mr. Stephens, even with 
a consultation." "Stephens has the ear of Davis." This last 


fault was soon to be corrected for the war had not progressed 
far when Davis and Stephens were at daggers drawn. 

Occasionally a few words give us an unforgettable picture. 
On February 17 the President arrived for his inauguration, 
"in a suit of homespun. ... A crowd variously estimated 
at from 3,000 to 10,000 are collected at the west end of the 
Capitol and are now cheering vociferously as the President 
elect descends from his carriage to enter the capitol. . . . 
Well, the ceremonies are over and the crowd dispersed. The 
inaugural pleased everybody and the manner in which Davis 
took the oath was most impressive. . . . Bouquets were show 
ered upon him. At the head of the procession was Captain 
Semmes' Columbus guards in a beautiful uniform of sky-blue 
pants and bright red coats, carrying a banner with the Georgia 
coat of arms. n Only one incident marred the occasion when 
Members of Congress took the oath of loyalty to the Consti 
tution. "One man refused to kiss the Bible. He Is Judge 
Withers of South Carolina* He is an avowed infidel. 11 Other 
sentences reflect certain of the terrible misapprehensions with 
which the Confederate people launched their ship of state. 
"The almost universal belief here is that we shall not have 
war." "The firm conviction here is that Great Britain, France 
and Russia will acknowledge us at once in the family of na 

Many who were to play important parts in the Confederacy 
appear in these notes. Stephens is never mentioned except to 
be assailed. "Mr. Stephens is most arrogant in his oracular 
announcements of what we should or should not do. ... A 
poor, selfish demagogue, he is trying to ride on the wave of 
popular clamor, and create factions in opposition to every 
body." Meanwhile the business of Cabinet making was under 
way. "Toombs is spoken of for the State Department, but 
says he would not have it. Yancey and Benjamin have been 
named for places, but I think no one has the slightest intima 
tion of the views of the President." Of all Southern leaders 


Benjamin was the most odious to the writer. U A grander 
rascal than this Jew Benjamin does not exist in the Confed 
eracy and I am not particular in concealing my opinion of 
him." 5 "I hear Mr. Davis had consulted no one save Mr. 
Stephens and Mr. Memminger. The latter will probably be 
Secretary of the Treasury. . . . He is very shrewd, a perfect 
copy of McCoy metamorphosed into a legislating lawyer." 
"It is understood that [Mr. Davis] offered the Treasury de 
partment to Toombs by telegraph and it is well known that 
Toombs will decline it. Yancey is to be Attorney General. 
Captain Bragg is to be Secretary of War. These are rumors." 6 
"The State department was offered to Mr. Barnwell and de 
clined by him, so says Keitt" 7 "Many are disappointed here. 
... I had the folly to believe that there was great patriotism 
in this movement. God help us ! It looks now as if it was noth 
ing but office seeking." "Mallory of Florida will be Secretary 
of the Navy. Yancey is one of the Commissioners to Europe." 
"The nomination of Mallory as Secretary of the Navy was 
confirmed to-day after a struggle. His soundness on the Se 
cession question was questioned." 8 

The young man who wrote these notes Cobb was thirty- 
eight at the time did not believe that the gathering meant 
war. He was killed, twenty-two months afterward, in the 
battle of Fredericksburg. 


Just how did it come about that Jefferson Davis was elected 
President of the Confederate States of America? On this 

5 This entry was made several months later, when Judah P. Benj amm was Secretary of 

6 Rather wild ones, as It turned out, 

7 Of South Carolina. Keitt had been one of the fire-eating South Carolina Congressmen 
before Secession. 

8 These extracts are from a collection of Cobb's letters in The Southern Historical 
Society's Papers, Vol. XXVIII, and Proceedings of the Southern History Association, 
Vol. XI. 


question his biographers have ruminated without finding any 
satisfactory answer. Of course the upholders of the "con 
spiracy" theory, of the furtive meeting in the Washington 
Capitol on January 5, have no difficulty in solving the prob 
lem. According to this explanation his selection was automatic. 
Davis had been decided on then and there and the Conven 
tion really had no choice. Certain impediments to accepting 
this simple elucidation have been noted above* Far from 
being the mechanical result of a precisely arranged programme, 
there are facts that make the election of Davis a pure acci 
dent. His elevation was, it almost seems, the outcome of a 
misapprehension. Stephens maintained to his dying day that 
such was the case. Had the Montgomery Convention really 
exercised a free choice, he insisted, it would have unanimously 
elevated Robert Toombs. That he was a far more attractive 
man than Davis, a far more brilliant orator, far more human, 
and probably abler as a statesman, most commentators agree. 
Now and then, it is true, Toombs was lacking in seemly be 
havior. Sometimes his tobacco juice oozed from the corners 
of his mouth upon a white shirt front; and, according to 
one legend, his bibulous habits at the Montgomery Convention 
got the better of him; in plain words, like Andrew Johnson 
in a fateful moment, Toombs was palpably drunk. It was this 
slip, according to the story, not satisfactorily authenticated, 
which kept Toombs from the Presidential chair. The mere 
fact that Toombs came from Georgia stood much in his favor. 
"As Georgia goes, so goes the Confederacy," soon became a 
byword. An indication of its preeminence is that, of the 
four men conspicuously suggested for President, three were 
Georgians. Two of these, however, presented difficulties. 
Howell Cobb, as already related, had deserted his Democratic 
party in 1850 and joined forces with the antislavery Whigs 
in upholding the Compromise measures of that year. The 
memory of Democrats was retentive and Cobb's unpopularity, 
particularly In the cotton states, offered a serious bar to his 


candidacy. Due obeisance was paid to his eminence as Secre 
tary of the Treasury in Buchanan's Cabinet by making him 
the presiding officer of the Montgomery Convention, but the 
forcing of his name for chief executive would have ruined that 
harmony which was deemed so desirable at this momentous 
hour. The sad feature is that Cobb and his friends and family 
so heartily yearned for the honor. 

So, it is quite apparent, did the second available candidate, 
Alexander H. Stephens. The reason he was not seriously con 
sidered appears in the note of Thomas R. R. Cobb, quoted 
above. He was regarded as an eccentric and chameleonlike 
man, holding one view to-day, another to-morrow. His speech 
opposing Secession in the Georgia Legislature had aroused 
the enthusiasm of Abraham Lincoln, but had weakened his 
standing in the lower South. Clearly here was the most in 
sidious of those "Reconstructionists" against whom all earnest 
proponents of Southern independence were continually on the 
defense; make Stephens President and he would at once 
so it was urged and the fear was doubtless real begin 
negotiations to reinstate a repentant South in the Union ! Had 
the Montgomery delegates been in possession of Stephens's let 
ters written at the time, their distrust would have turned to 
violence. These letters show that this Georgian had no faith 
in the proposed Confederacy or in its leaders. His melan 
cholic disposition became black when viewing the prospect 
before him. Only a month before going to Montgomery, 
Stephens had declared to his brother Linton that the South 
had no real grievance against the North. The complaint 
"arises more from a spirit of peevishness or restless fretful- 
ness than from calm and deliberate judgment. . . . With but 
few exceptions the South has controlled the government in its 
every important action from the beginning. It has aided in 
making and sustaining the administration for sixty years out 
of the seventy-two of the government's existence. Does this 
look like we were or are an abject minority at the mercy of 


a despotic northern majority, rapacious to rob and plun* 
der us?"* 

His letters ridicule and depreciate the leaders of the move 
ment. "My apprehension and distrust of the future arise from 
the want of high integrity, loyalty to principle and pure, dis 
interested patriotism in the men at the head of the move 
ment, who necessarily control it, at least for the present, . . . 
Whatever feelings of despondency I have in looking to the 
future come from my knowledge of the men in whose hands 
we are likely to fall. They are selfish, ambitious and unscru 
pulous. * . . My word for it, this country is in a great deal 
worse condition than the people are aware of. What is to 
become of us I do not know." 10 Perhaps the Convention acted 
wisely in frowning upon Stephens's very mild Presidential 

None of these arguments, however, held against Toombs. 
Except for a miserable blunder, so Stephens afterward ex 
plained and so Toombs's biographers believe, 11 he would have 
been chosen. This mistake hinged upon the general distrust 
felt towards Howell Cobb. There was almost a morbid in 
sistence that the President should be elected on the first ballot 
and that this election should be unanimous. Again the Wash 
ington precedent should be observed! Every member was 
prepared to sacrifice local ambitions in order to produce this 
result. On the evening preceding the balloting all delegations 
except the one from Georgia met to pick their candidate. 
The next morning at ten o'clock the men of Georgia gathered 
for the same purpose. A large majority In this meeting ex 
pressed their desire for Toombs. "Will you have it?" Stephens 
asked. There was nothing which Toombs yearned for more. If 
it came to him cordially, he answered, he would accept. But now 
spoke up Thomas R. R. Cobb whose notes, breathing fierce 
animosity against Stephens and strong desire for the selec- 

9 Life of Alexander H. Stephens, by Johnston and Browne, p. 376, 
The same, p. 384. 
11 Sec Life of Robert Toombs, by Ulricli B. PHUipB, p. 224. 


tion of his brother, have been quoted above. All the other 
delegations except Mississippi, he declared, had united at their 
meetings the previous evening on Jefferson Davis. Should 
Georgia take the responsibility of advancing their "favorite 
son" and thus break the hoped-for unanimity? All present 
were agreed that this would be a tragedy, and one of their 
number was sent to make inquiry as to the truth of Thomas 
Cobb's statement. This messenger quickly returned. Yes, it 
was indeed true; all the states, except Mississippi, had gone 
for Davis; his own state held back, not because of hostility 
to the man, but because it wished him as he did himself 
to become Commander in Chief of the Confederate Army. 
There seemed nothing left for Georgia to do therefore except 
fall in line and make the selection unanimous. As consolation, 
another of Georgia's sons, Alexander H. Stephens himself, 
was made Vice President while the disappointed Toombs re 
ceived the highest appointment as the gift of the new execu 
tive, that of Secretary of State. 

Too late did the Georgia men learn why their compatriots 
of Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana had 
rushed so precipitately to Davis. Not one of them, it presently 
appeared, had actually wanted this candidate for President; 
their choice of all of them was Toombs. But all had been 
informed that Georgia intended to present Howell Cobb. 
Clearly this attitude placed Toombs in an unfortunate po 
sition. His own state evidently did not desire him for Presi 
dent of the Confederacy; it had centred upon the obnoxious 
Howell Cobb. Under these circumstances, the enthusiasm that 
had previously been marked for Toombs throughout the South 
rapidly dissolved. The supposed injection of Howell Cobb 
stirred up the old antagonisms. If his name were to be seriously 
advanced, that harmony to which the delegates had pledged 
themselves would disappear. The Convention would soon be 
engaged in a battle over the most important matter on the 
programme. For under no circumstances would the other states 


accept the "apostate" of 1850. Nothing was therefore left 
to do but to concentrate on Jefferson Davis. In this way did the 
half-invalid and reluctant statesman of Mississippi become 
President of the Confederate States of America. The elec 
tion, as had been planned, was unanimous. Six states voted as 
states, and all six votes went to Davis. The disappointed mili 
tarist at once resigned his commission as major general of 
the army of the "Republic of Mississippi" and departed for 



In the second great task of the Convention, Stephens for 
the most part had his way. In the brief space of a month, 
the delegates adopted both a provisional and a permanent 
charter of government. The form decided on was the Con 
stitution of the United States, with such alterations as were 
deemed necessary to bring it into harmony with the new 
Southern situation, or, as Davis phrased It, to express "the 
well known intent" of the fathers of 1787. For example the 
first seven words of the Federal preamble had led to hot 
contention for three quarters of a century: "We, the people 
of the United States." Centralists had declared that this clause 
itself settled the greatest of all Constitutional arguments. Did 
it not describe the American government as a national Union, 
the work of the American people as a homogeneous mass? 
State-rights philosophers had met the admittedly difficult point 
with a variety of ingenious contentions, and this dispute the 
Confederate Constitution decided to clear up definitely. Its 
very first sentence, therefore, sounded the quintessence of Cal- 
hounism. "We, the people of the Confederate States, each 
state acting in its sovereign and independent character." This 
explanatory clause, according to the State-rights school, the 
fathers of 1787 had intended to add to the original procla 
mation, but for some strange reason had neglected to do so; 


Montgomery now corrected this fatal omission of Philadel 
phia. There could be no argument as to meaning after that I 
Another hiatus in the Federal Constitution had long been 
a grievance to the more religious part of the American popu 
lation; this was its failure to mention the Deity. And so the 
Confederate preamble invoked "the favor of Almighty God" 
though the attempt of Thomas Cobb to secure the insertion 
of a clause forbidding the transportation of mails on Sunday 
was disapproved. An even more significant change than any 
of these was the use of the word "slave." This word does 
not appear in the Federal Constitution, though the existence 
of this type of property is clearly recognized several times. 
Most of the fathers of 1787, especially those from the South, 
detested slavery, and could not bring themselves to use the 
hated syllable in their charter. In this document black bond 
men appear as "persons," "other persons," or "persons held 
to service." But much history had been made from 1787 to 
1861; how much, the Confederate Constitution disclosed. An 
institution that was abhorred by the Virginians of the earlier 
time had become respectable in this later age. The constant 
hammering of the Abolitionists, the Garrisonian cry that slav 
ery was a "sin," that a nation encouraging it was eternally 
damned, had seared the Southern mind and produced an atti 
tude of defiance and assertion. Southerners for a generation 
had winced at the shamefacedness of the Constitution in refus 
ing to mention specifically "slaves"; they regarded this reluc 
tance as an insult to their section. Consequently, in their revised 
document the obscured African of 1787 leaps into the sun 
light. He ceases to be a "person," and emerges challengingly 
a "slave." Certain members made a precise point of this 
change; they looked upon it as a matter of honor; the South 
must not be ashamed of something which was really much 
to its credit. At the same time the Confederate Constitution 
peremptorily prohibited the slave trade. The only state that 
protested to the end against this outlawing was South Car- 


olina, and for some strange reason, that inscrutable person, 
Alexander H. Stephens, voted with South Carolina on this 

But one studied omission from this paper comes almost as 
a shock. Several attempts were made to include in the Consti 
tution a declaration asserting the right of Secession. The Con 
vention stonily refused to make such a declaration. The prin 
ciple on which the constitutionality of their entire movement 
depended the delegates at Alabama utterly declined to pro 
claim. South Carolina's effort to have the right of nullifica 
tion acknowledged similarly did not succeed. But the Consti 
tution did include a clause settling a controversy that had 
raged between the sections for decades. Congress was im 
peratively forbidden to pass a protective tariff. Another clause 
that reads strangely to-day is one forbidding the appropria 
tion of money for public improvements I Here orthodox Jef- 
fersonism scored another victory* 

Toombs had visited Europe in 1855; in London he liked 
to drop in on the House of Commons and listen to the de 
bates. This experience, as well as his wide reading, had given 
him a great respect for the British parliamentary system. 
One must remember his interruption of Stephens's November 
speech when, in response to the statement that the United 
States government was the best in the world, he ejaculated 
the word "England!" Stephens also thought that, in certain 
details, parliamentary government was better than our own. 
They were undoubtedly the two most statesmanlike of the 
minds that framed the Confederate Constitution, and their 
admiration for the English House of Commons appears in 
several details. But the most radical change they sought to 
incorporate, giving the President power to select his Cabinet 
from the membership of Congress precisely as the British 
Premier does from Parliament, did not meet approval. How 
ever, they did obtain a clause making it possible for Cabinet 
members to sit in the House of Representatives and to par- 


ticipate in debates affecting their departments. More impor 
tant still, the Constitution contained a section that provided 
for what was essentially the British budget system. There can 
be no real budget, of course, so long as individual lawmakers 
can introduce appropriation bills of their own, or increase the 
estimates. Making the budget is an executive function, not a 
legislative one. The departments should inform Congress the 
amounts they need for the conduct of the nation's business; 
it is the prerogative of Congress to vote these requests or 
refuse to do so. This rational procedure is completely de 
stroyed when individual members, helter-skelter, can bring in 
money bills. The Confederate Constitution most wisely pro 
hibited this practice. "Congress shall appropriate no money 
from the Treasury, unless it be asked and estimated for by 
the President or some one of the heads of departments, ex 
cept for the purpose of paying its own expenses and contin* 
gencies." How the legislative process at Washington would 
be simplified if such a rule prevailed to-day 1 

Another innovation introduced by the Confederate Con 
stitution is one which reformers have advocated for years, so 
far unsuccessfully. That is a clause permitting the President 
to veto single items in appropriation bills. Thus was cured 
one of the greatest abuses of Congress, that of putting in 
general appropriation bills all kinds of undesirable expendi 
tures items that the President must accept if the govern 
ment is to continue, for he cannot disapprove them except by 
vetoing the measure as a whole. 

This review of the Convention and its constitution reveals 
again the overwhelming dominance wielded by the most 
populous and enlightened of the seven states that organized 
the Confederacy. One of Georgia's ablest sons, Toombs, 
would have been President except for an absurd misunder 
standing. The Georgia delegation towered over all the other 
states in the eminence of its representatives. No other unit 
could display a group so statesmanlike and so gifted for lead- 


ership as Stephens, Toombs, Benjamin Hill, and the Cobb 
brothers. These men furnished the ideas for the Constitution 
and exercised the chief influence in framing it. They added to 
the old Federal Constitution certain innovations such as 
that providing for a genuine budget system and that giving 
the President power to pick out obnoxious items in appro 
priation bills and veto them that enhanced its value as a 
system of government. Whether the provision making the 
Presidential term six years, with no re-election, marked an 
Improvement may be fairly argued, but It at least removed 
forever that nightmare of a "third term" which has so fre 
quently demoralized national politics. 


The first Cabinet of Jefferson Davis was selected on what 
would be called to-day a "pork-barrel" basis. Besides Missis 
sippi, there were six states in the government, in its first 
phase; each was duly "recognized" by the appointment of 
one of its prominent citizens to the President's Council. 
Toombs, of Georgia, became Secretary of State; Charles G. 
Memminger, of South Carolina, Secretary of the Treasury; 
Leroy P. Walker, of Alabama, Secretary of War; Stephen R. 
Mallory, of Florida, Secretary of the Navy; Judah P. Benja 
min, of Louisiana, Attorney General, and John H. Reagan, of 
Texas, Postmaster General. This Cabinet had its offices in a 
commercial building in Montgomery, while the President 
transacted business in the Exchange Hotel. Its existence in 
Montgomery lasted for about three months. In that time 
only one of its sessions looms large in history and that one 
looms large indeed. Lincoln's inauguration on March 4, and 
his address, which clearly foreshadowed the use of force to 
put down the "rebellion," suddenly awoke the officials of 
Montgomery to a realization that war, after all, might be 


the sequel to their separation. Lincoln's dilatory action on 
the affair of Fort Sumter also disquieted and puzzled them. 
The basis of Lincoln's conduct is now no secret. He was 
determined to restore the Union, using, if necessary, all the 
men and resources of the North for that purpose. But an 
embarrassing fact was that the North at the beginning was 
not united for offensive purposes; and the President com 
pletely understood the foolhardiness of entering on such a 
stupendous conflict without a unanimous nation at his back. 
Only one thing would produce this unanimity: an act of ag 
gression by the South, an armed attack on the Union. Above 
all other wars, the side that struck the first blow in this one 
would reap a great disadvantage. Lincoln's romantic, imag 
inative nature accurately appraised the instantaneous effect 
that would be produced in the North by such an overt act as 
firing on the American flag. This was one of the imponderables 
that Davis, less sensitive, did not gauge. Such an affront, Lin 
coln knew, would unite the North in an instant and bring 
all the people to a furious understanding of what these strange 
performances at Montgomery implied. Up to April, the 
Montgomery deliberations had half angered the North, half 
amused it. Secession struck most observers on the national 
side of the Potomac as a mixture of menace and burlesque. 
Its real purport a most formidable attempt to split the 
nation in two, to set up an independent and necessarily hostile 
Republic on the Southern border had entered the conscious 
ness of only the most discerning. Politics still raged supreme; 
Democrats were still too inclined to look sympathetically upon 
the grievances of their Southern brethren; in the Northern 
states Secessionists were uncomfortably numerous. In conse 
quence that unanimity of feeling essential to crushing the up 
rising did not exist, and Lincoln's first task as a statesman was 
to establish such oneness of feeling. An aggressive act on the 
part of the South would tremendously help him in this work. 
His behavior during the critical month from March 4 to 


April 12 shows that in his own quiet, subtle way, he was goad 
ing the South into committing this mistake* 

One man in the Confederate Cabinet and only one 
completely understood Lincoln's maneuvers. That was Robert 
Toombs. All the influence he possessed was exerted to pre 
vent Davis from playing into Lincoln's hands- The fatal 
Confederate Cabinet meeting was held on April 9. Lincoln, 
evidently thinking the moment had arrived, notified South 
Carolina that he intended to replenish the supplies of the 
garrison at Fort Sumter, Davis had called his Cabinet to 
consider action on the crisis. Every member, except one, urged 
him to resort to drastic means of reprisal* Toombs entered 
the Cabinet meeting after the discussion had begun. He im 
mediately opposed Davis and his colleagues, "The firing on 
that fort," he warned, "will inaugurate a civil war greater 
than any the world has ever seen; and I do not feel com 
petent to advise you." Then, at the incredulous smiles of his 
associates, he became more serious. His hands behind his back, 
the Secretary of State stalked up and down the room. Sud 
denly he stopped before Davis. He was an impressive sight 
with his burly figure, his large round head, with its tangled 
forest of disordered hair, his flushed ample cheeks, his daz 
zling blue eyes. "Mr. President," he said, "if this is true it 
is suicide, it is murder, and will lose us every friend at the 
North* You will wantonly strike a hornets' nest which ex 
tends from mountains to ocean; and legions, now quiet, will 
swarm out to sting us to death." Then, after a pause: "It is 
unnecessary, it puts us in the wrong. It is fatal." n 

But Toombs found no supporters above all, not the 
President. A telegram was written and handed to a boy, who 
rushed to the telegraph office across the street. It was a mes 
sage to Beauregard, virtually ordering the bombardment of 
Fort Sumter. The Civil War had begun and was begun, as 
Lincoln intended it should be, by the South. 

^Robert T combs, Stattsman t Speaker, Soldier > Sage t by Plcaiaat A. Stovall, p. 226. 





UPON Robert Toombs, Secretary of State, was laid perhaps 
the most delicate task facing the new government. It was his 
duty to cultivate the friendship of Europe and to win recog 
nition from its greatest powers. Success might well have 
meant immediate triumph, for it would have involved the 
Federal Union in war with Great Britain and France. Was it 
conceivable that the North could wage a great conflict on 
Its own borders, and, at the same time, fight the most pow 
erful naval and military nations of Europe? Recognition 
would end the blockade, perhaps the North's most destructive 
measure against the South, open the markets of the world to 
cotton, and thus give the Confederacy a financial strength 
which in itself would have made the cause secure. Toombs 
may have felt a justifiable grievance in failing to gain the 
Presidency of the new republic, but he could not complain 
about the importance of the office assigned him. 

The first Davis appointments in this field proclaimed the 
complexity of the interests at stake. To a commission of three 
men William L. Yancey of Alabama, Pierre A. Rost of 
Louisiana, and A. Dudley Mann of Georgia was assigned 
the task of winning recognition from Great Britain and 
France. At the same time a not widely known Kentuckian, 
John T. Pickett, was despatched on a similar mission to 
Mexico. England, France, and Mexico such were the Gov 
ernments whose friendship was deemed most essential to 
Confederate success. That England and France should be 
sedulously courted arouses no surprise, but why should recog 
nition by Mexico be so highly esteemed? Yet Toombs was 


not the only statesman who conciliated the disorderly republic 
to the south. Lincoln and Seward similarly sought its friendly 
aid. u The President," wrote William H. Seward, Federal Sec 
retary of State, in his instructions to Thomas Corwin, the 
new Minister to Mexico, regarded the Mexican mission x tl at 
this juncture as perhaps the most interesting and important 
within the whole circle of our diplomatic relations." Even 
before the firing on Fort Sumter influential Southerners began 
stressing the importance of Mexico to the Confederate cause. 
One of these was William M. Burwell, of the well-known Vir 
ginia family a Virginia conservative who took an exclu 
sively aristocratic view of the crisis. "Lincoln and Seward," 
Mr. Burwell wrote Toombs as early as March 14, "properly 
perceive that their main battle with the South is to be fought 
in Mexico. . . . You are ready for that battle and I trust 
In God you will whip it. There lies, I think, the future of your 
country." 2 Another pressing correspondent was John Forsyth, 
of Alabama, from 1856 to 1858 American Minister to Mex 
ico and negotiator of an unratified treaty which represented 
the widest expansionist desires of the Buchanan Administra 
tion. In March of 1861 Mr* Forsyth was sojourning in Wash 
ington, D. C, as a member of the Confederate Commission 
to the United States. Not meeting with a hospitable recep* 
tion from Lincoln, Forsyth consoled himself by writing let 
ters, one addressed to the new President at Montgomery* In 
this Mr. Forsyth urged that his chief despatch immediately 
a secret agent to Mexico* 

Why was this emphasis laid on Mexico as the focal point 
of Confederate diplomacy? For the preceding forty years the 
Aztec republic had been the most tempestuous nation in two 
hemispheres. Since the expulsion of the Spaniards, in 1821, 
Mexico had had seventy-five presidents nearly two a year. 
No country enjoyed less respect or influence in the foreign 

1 V. S. Instructions^ Vol. XVII, No. 2, Apr. 6, 1861. National Arduve*. 
2 Pickett Papers, Library of Congrew. 


offices of the world. None would seem less likely to be flat 
tered by a proud young people, like the Confederacy, seeking 
international standing. Yet this very turbulence in itself made 
Mexico an important pawn in the diplomatic game which now 
began. For it was through Mexico that recognition by Great 
Britain and France might be obtained. The most successful 
diplomatic attack was not to be a frontal one on London and 
Paris, but a flank one on Vera Cruz and Mexico City. 

To understand this, we must erase all realization of the 
present world, forget the situation which the United States 
now holds in world affairs, and reconstruct the conditions of 
1861. At that time European nations were casting covetous 
eyes upon Central and South America; Mexico, the richest 
jewel of all, was the particular object of desire. The one 
thing that this republic had seemingly demonstrated, in its 
less than half century of existence, was an inability to govern 
itself. It was not that it governed badly; the difficulty was 
that it did not govern at all; the nation for nearly fifty years 
had lain at the mercy of roving bands, each of which, in a 
period of temporary power, robbed and murdered at will. In 
no place were life and property safe. Foreigners had suffered 
even more than the simple, poverty-stricken peon. Neither 
private nor public debts had been secure. To the old-fashioned 
statesmen of those days only one solution of the Mexican 
problem seemed conceivable. Since Mexicans showed no signs 
of governing their country it was obviously the duty of the 
"powers" especially of those whose citizens had been 
robbed and killed, whose property interests had been con 
stantly jeopardized, and whose debts had for decades been 
in arrears to step in and take control. That was the mid- 
nineteenth-century view of the proper way to handle dis 
orderly peoples. Doubtless the vast riches of Mexico con 
siderably whetted this European concept of duty; happy the 
nation that could add this unexampled empire to its posses 
sions ! 


Another nation had not only cherished a similar ambition, 
but, to the extent of "robbing" Mexico of one half of her 
area, had carried it into effect* The ten years preceding the 
Civil War had clearly demonstrated that "the new colossus 
of the North" was quite prepared to complete the work of 
evisceration. Mr. Forsyth, who addressed President Davis 
on the Mexican problem in March, 1861, had been one of 
the greediest of land grabbers; another was Judah P. Benja 
min, now Attorney General in the Davis Cabinet, previously 
the spokesman of President James Buchanan in Mexican 
affairs, and eager pursuer of concessions which would have 
given him control of a railroad across the isthmus of Tehuan- 
tepee. Thus the most formidable rival to British, French, 
and Spanish ambitions in Mexico was that nation's closest 
neighbor. Its Monroe Doctrine prohibited any European coun 
try from acquiring an additional foot of land in the West 
ern Hemisphere. Its own history showed that what it denied 
to Europe, it reserved the right to appropriate itself. 

At that time Great Britain had not yet reached the point 
of satiation in engulfing foreign territory. A people that had 
not ceased to grieve over "the loss of the American colonies" 
would have gladly found consolation in a land perhaps even 
naturally richer than the great Republic. Spain, feeble and 
poverty-stricken, still lived in her ancient pride, and still 
dreamed of regaining the lost Mexican Empire. But the most 
aggressive of all contenders was France. Louis Napoleon, 
nephew of the great Napoleon, had ruled France for nearly 
ten years. Splendid as the Second Empire appeared In its ex 
ternal trappings, its future was by no means secure* Founded 
chiefly on the prestige of a great name, itself the product of 
a barrack usurpation, it could maintain its power only by 
adventure and expansion. Napoleon III, no mighty states 
man, had reached his lofty height by assurances that, under 
him, France would regain the power that had been achieved 
under his great namesake. Only triumphs in the dangerous 


foreign field could solidify the dynasty. Gloire thus became 
the watchword of his reign and restless ambition the one rule 
of its existence. 

Had Napoleon himself lacked the zeal necessary to this 
purpose, a fiery and tireless influence constantly stood at 
his side, urging the more sluggish temperament to action. 
Napoleon III had married the beautiful and ambitious Eugenie 
de Montijo, a Spanish lady of noble but not royal birth. She 
had all the zest of a Spaniard for Empire and for Church. 
A France that should regain the mastery of Europe did not 
satisfy her imperial designs: she aspired to establish once 
more that power in the Western world which had been lost 
to Great Britain and the United States. France had once 
ruled Canada, and had ceded it to Britain; she had dominated 
the large domain of Louisiana, and had sold it to the new 
American Union. What more fitting enterprise for the new 
Napoleonic empire than the restoration of French prestige in 
the Western world? Eugenie was thinking of more than po 
litical success. She was a fervid Catholic and upholder of the 
temporal power of the church, then assailed in many lands. 
The greatest sin of the Mexicans, in her eyes, was the warfare 
on the Papacy. That had been the question at stake in the 
latest of Mexico's civil wars, that between Zuloaga, fighting 
with the clericals, and Benito Juarez, the church's bitterest 
foe a contest that had ended in January, 1861, a month 
before the outbreak of the American civil war, in the com 
plete success of Juarez. The result had been the seculariza 
tion of religion and the seizure of church property. Eugenie's 
soul burned with a passion to right what she regarded as a 
monstrous wrong. French domination in Mexico was the one 
way to do it. 

Only one enemy stood in the path of this magnificent enter 
prise. The preposterous Yankee Republic, with its even more 
preposterous Monroe Doctrine, alone disturbed the impe 
rialistic dream. All European statesmen, including Napoleoa 


III, understood that any attempt to establish a foreign power 
in Mexico, or in any part of North or South America, would 
be accepted by Washington as a declaration of war. Until 
1861, therefore, Napoleon had remained quiescent. For the 
preceding few years Mexico had offered a serious problem 
to three European powers, England, France and Spain, but 
in all these activities the secret purposes of the French em 
peror had been kept in abeyance. Mexican carelessness in 
paying her debts now brought these three nations together 
for joint action. In those days the use of ships of war as debt- 
collection agencies was accepted as one of their natural func 
tions, and the news that England, France, and Spain had de 
cided to send a persuasive flotilla on such a mission to Vera 
Cruz caused no anxiety In Washington. The three powers 
explained that mere seizure of a port, with its customhouses, 
for the satisfaction of long-standing claims, was the only end 
in view; above all, that no occupation of Mexican territory 
entered into the plans. So long as the expedition limited itself 
to such a demonstration, the United States raised no objec 
tion. The Monroe Doctrine was not involved. 

But at least one of the intervening powers was meditating 
schemes far more imperialistic than a dunning expedition. 
Already, in the spring of 1861, Napoleon and Eugenie had 
formed the plan of invading Mexico, seizing the government, 
and creating a throne for some European royalty, preferably 
the Archduke Maximilian of Hapsburg, brother of the Em 
peror Francis Joseph. Maximilian himself, at that time twenty- 
nine years old, second in succession to the empire of Austro- 
Hungary, a man of cultivated mind and gentle disposition, 
was largely under the influence of his wife, the impetuous, 
ambitious Charlotte, just as Napoleon, in this enterprise, was 
dominated by the Empress Eugenie. Thus it would be no ex 
aggeration to say that the proposed Hapsburg Empire in 
Mexico was largely the work of these two restless, imperious 
women. Except for one turn of history, however, It would 


have remained a fantastic dream. The happening that changed 
it from a wild, feminist imagining into a reality was the new 
political prospect opening in the Western Hemisphere. 

The break-up of the American Union had apparently re 
moved the single impediment to European ambitions on the 
new continent. To most European statesmen, in 1861, the 
organization of the Confederacy signified the end of the 
United States at least its end as a great power. The Battle 
of Bull Run confirmed this belief. William H. Russell, the 
Times correspondent already quoted, returned to England 
in the spring of 1862, convinced that the Union could never be 
restored. Most European countries held the same view. It 
was not only the apparently hopeless military task confront 
ing the United States that induced this unanimity. Nations, 
like individuals, are likely to believe what they wish to be 
lieve. The sudden rise of the United States, its growth in 
wealth and population, Its truculent attitude towards Eu 
ropean powers an attitude natural enough to exuberant 
youth had alienated most of Europe. The expanding Amer 
ican merchant marine was especially disturbing to Great 
Britain. But above everything else the thing that offended the 
Old World was the Monroe Doctrine, the declaration that 
no longer could Europe carve up the American continent, 
and the threat of war constantly held out to any nation that 
should make the attempt. To European statecraft, therefore, 
the impending break-up of the United States was a most wel 
come event. Especially was it hailed almost as a deliverance 
by Napoleon III, by Leopold I of Belgium, by Maximilian 
of Austria, by the Empress Eugenie and the Archduchess 
Charlotte. Heaven had delivered Mexico into their hands I 
No American fleet could now oppose their approach to Vera 
Cruz; the Yankee navy was too much occupied blockading 
three thousand miles of Confederate coast line. No American 
army would now venture to cross the Rio Grande and expel 
foreign troops; that border was the possession of a hostile 


Confederacy. Not only was this obstacle removed for the time 
being, but seemingly forever. A powerful southern people, 
strong in arms, rich in products, commercially and economi 
cally a complement to Europe, would stand indefinitely as a 
buffer between what was left of the arrogant United States 
and the contemplated Mexican Empire. European diplomacy 
in the future should maintain the friendliest relations with 
the Confederate States, for, so long as this new virile power 
upheld its independence, the Monroe Doctrine could be 
treated as a dead letter. Again, almost in a twinkling, both 
North and South America had become a field of conquest, 
helpless before European exploitation. In a world-wide sense 
the chief importance of secession was that it had transformed 
the Western Hemisphere into a gigantic Poland, ripe for 
partition by the powers of Europe. 

Not only did European plotters perceive this opportunity, 
but Confederate diplomacy as well. An unfortunate phase of 
war is that the foe usually looks for advantages where they 
may be found, and the immediate necessities of the case fre 
quently result in strange, even disastrous combinations. In 
1861 the enemies of the Federal Government, wherever 
found, were regarded, from that very fact, as the destined 
friends of the Confederate States. Thus events had appar 
ently made the South an ally of France, even at the cost of 
advancing the predatory schemes of Napoleon. Davis had 
something definite to offer France, and Napoleon in return 
could do much for the South. Was it mistaken policy to pro 
mote the Maximilian usurpation in Mexico, in exchange for 
French recognition of the Government of Jefferson Davis? 
Confederate statesmen accepted this as good international 

Recognition by France, they fondly believed In these early 
days, would have, as a necessary accompaniment, recognition 
by Great Britain. That France and Great Britain were acting 
as a unit in the American crisis was no secret for, as soon as 


hostilities began, the French and British Governments offi 
cially made an announcement to this effect. Both at the 
same time recognized the belligerency of the Confederate 
states and simultaneously issued proclamations of neutrality. 
Both publicly declared that, on the more vital question the 
acknowledgment of Southern independence and the negotia 
tion of treaties of friendship and trade they would act as a 
single nation. One morning Mr. Seward was astonished by 
the appearance of Lord Lyons and M. Mercier, British and 
French Ministers in Washington, on a joint visit to the State 
Department, demanding that they be received together. Mr. 
Seward deftly but firmly declined to grant this startling re 
quest, but the proposal disclosed the extent to which the two 
Governments were carrying out an allied policy in the treat 
ment of all American questions. It was therefore natural to 
suppose that French recognition of the Confederacy would 
simultaneously bring similar action by Great Britain. Mr. 
Toombs therefore regarded it as good diplomacy to take all 
means of enticing Napoleonic France into such an accom 
modating gesture. To promote Napoleonic schemes in Mex 
ico was the quickest way of reaching this goal. To offer the 
same opposition that was stolidly presented by Washington 
would utterly destroy any chance of French and European 

Thus the quickest way to a possible diplomatic triumph in 
Europe lay through Mexico. From the standpoint of Ameri 
can continental history, such a policy involved great sacri 
fices. It might indeed be regarded as a betrayal of the whole 
North American tradition. It implied a complete reversal of 
the American system. It meant the introduction of European 
principles and of European dynasties into a hemisphere that 
had forever cast them out. Should France establish an im 
perial regime in Mexico, other European states had plans 
ready for advancement in other American quarters. The 
work of Washington, who insisted that America was some- 


thing quite distinct from Europe and should be kept free 
from European ideas, would go into the discard* The policy 
of another Southern President, Monroe, vetoing for all time 
any extension of European influence in the New World, would 
be jettisoned. These concessions, however, the South was pre 
pared to make. As a result, the struggle of the Lincoln Gov 
ernment involved far more than is ordinarily understood. 
What the North was supposed to be fighting for was the 
preservation of the Union. But the problem was vaster than 
that. The North was really fighting for the preservation of 
the Western Hemisphere, of both North and South America 
at least their preservation from seizure by the autocratic 
dynasties of the transatlantic world. 

The triumph of Juarez over Zuloaga, in January, 1861, did 
not settle Mexico's internal conflict. Again two parties rose, 
struggling for control in the time-honored Mexican fashion. 
And the issues remained the same. The Constitutionalists, still 
led by Juarez, had been recognized by the United States as 
the established government. The Juarez regime was usually 
pictured as the liberal, anticlerical popular majority. By 
April, 1861, Juarez dominated the capital and most of cen 
tral and southern Mexico. The opposition party was the Con 
servative, composed of the "respectable classes" property 
owners and good churchmen, devoted to the restoration of 
the hierarchy and its ravished lands. This combination, it was 
asserted, favored the establishment of an empire, under a 
European prince, believing that only in this way could peace 
and order be brought to a distracted people. With this latter 
element the fortunes of the Confederacy clearly lay. On this 
point the letter of Mr. Burwell, addressed to Robert Toombs, 
is illuminating. In this writer's view the success of the North 
would endanger, not only the Southern labor system, but re 
ligion. "To-day their special animosity is against slavery; to 
morrow it will be against peonage. Here they are restrained 
from imposing Congregationalism and Presbyterianism upon 


dissenters by the terms of the Federal Constitution; in Mexico 
they would attack Catholics with an appetite sharpened by 
compulsory abstinence. If you deem important to be placed in 
confidential relations with the leading Catholic authorities in 
this country and in Mexico, with a view to impressing on the 
Mexican mind the superior safety of an alliance with the Con 
federacy I can bring into communication with you an intimate 
friend and devotee of Archbishop Hughes [Archbishop of 
New York]. He is also a man long and intimately acquainted 
with Mexico, socially, commercially, ecclesiastically and politi 
cally, and he will, I am convinced, afford you any assistance 
in that respect which you may desire." 3 This letter clearly 
contemplated an alliance with the Catholic Conservatives and 
Maximilianists. The Confederate ambassador selected for 
Mexico believed in his heart in the wisdom of the policy out 
lined. John T. Pickett, the man sent to bring the distracted 
republic into cooperation with the Confederacy, never wavered 
in this conviction. Before departing he wrote John Forsyth 
(March 13, 1861) that "only foreign intervention can bring 
peace and tranquility to Mexico.'' * After spending eight 
months in that country, his expressions on the subject were 
even stronger. He then informed Secretary Toombs that 
u President Zuloaga, the clergy and the old army chiefs would 
gladly throw themselves into the arms of the Confederate 
States. We may thus have forced upon us the policy of divide 
et impera." 5 


The two men selected to represent their two Governments 
in this critical capital had only one point in common both 
were native Kentuckians, Pickett a member of the family 

3 Letter of William M. Burwell to Robert Toombs, the Confederate Secretary of State, 
Liberty, Virginia, 14 March 1861. Pickett Papers, Library of Congress. 

4 Pickett Papers, Library of Congress. 

5 Pickett Papers, Despatch No. 10. 


that produced the fateful general of Gettysburg, Thomas 
Corwin the descendant of a similarly worthy New England 
line. In temperament, in character, in tastes, in political ideas, 
in career, it would be hard to imagine two men more unlike. 
Pickett was one of those adventurers about whom legends 
gather. He was a Southerner of traditional type. Proud, fiery, 
generous, quarrelsome, sensitive on points of honor, brave in 
a reckless, devil-may-care fashion, his whole existence had 
been a succession of excitements. Born in 1823, educated at 
West Point, Pickett gave up a comparatively quiet existence 
in the American army for more pleasing diversions in foreign 
lands. Co-conspirator with Kossuth, general at least by 
appointment in that patriot's Hungarian army, fomenter 
of revolution in San Domingo, colonel on the filibustering ex 
pedition of Narciso Lopez in Cuba, Pickett finally settled 
down as United States consul at Vera Cruz, where he became 
the intimate of insurrectos, the boon companion of banditti, 
and the right-hand man of American ministers and their 
co-plotter in schemes not necessarily friendly to Mexico. 

John Forsyth of Alabama, American minister in the trying 
period preceding the Civil War; Judah P. Benjamin of Louisi 
ana, future Secretary of State in the Confederacy, and stead 
fast seeker of Mexican concessions; John Slidell, another 
Louisianan who spent nearly a year 1859-1860 as un- 
received Minister of the United States to its suspicious 
southern neighbor such were Pickett's closest confidants. 
Forsyth owed much to Pickett' s tutorship. No better instructor 
in the complexities of Mexican politics could have fallen in 
Forsytes way. In his Mexican sojourn, from 1856 to 1859, 
Pickett had been his constant companion and adviser, a 
relationship that continued when Pickett, a ferocious Con 
federate, returned to the United States on the eve of Seces 
sion. When Forsyth went to Washington, in February, 1861, 
as a member of the Confederate commission to the United 
States Government, he took Pickett along as secretary, On 


the failure of this attempt at accommodation, Pickett re 
turned to the centre of operations, Montgomery. Everywhere 
Pickett and Forsyth were found in company. William H. 
Russell, correspondent of the London Times, met the two men 
both in Washington and in the Confederate capital. The 
Englishman evidently liked Pickett, spent many convivial eve 
nings with him discussing various aspects of the Confederacy, 
and learned much of Central American politics. "Mr. Colonel 
Pickett,' 7 wrote Russell, "is a tall, good-looking man, of pleas 
ant manners and well educated. But this gentleman was a 
professed buccaneer, a friend of Walker, the grey-eyed man of 
destiny his comrade in his most dangerous razzie. He was 
a newspaper writer, a soldier, a filibusterer, and he now threw 
himself into the cause of the South with vehemence; it was not 
difficult to imagine he saw in that cause the realization of the 
dreams of empire in the south of the Gulf, and of conquest 
in the islands of the sea, which have such a fascinating in 
fluence over the imagination of a large portion of the American 
people." 6 

With such admirers at court as John Forsyth and Judah P. 
Benjamin, and with his long experience in Mexican affairs, 
acquaintance with Mexico's public men, and skill in the Spanish 
language, Pickett's appointment to the Aztec capital followed 
in the natural order of things. Above all, his ambitions in 
Mexico and Central America accorded with those of the men 
directing Confederate affairs. Davis himself was no more an 
"imperialist" in this quarter of the hemisphere than Pickett. 
The genial "Colonel John" in Mexico this name quickly 
became Don Juan pinned his faith on the conservative and 
clerical party; he loathed the Juarez regime, and believed 
that the South should seek alliance with the counter-revolution 
then attempting to destroy it. His rival, the new American 
minister to Mexico, Thomas Corwin, sympathized just as 

6 My Diary, North and South, Vol. I, p. 95. Pickett'i title of "Colonel" came from his 
service in the Lopez expedition. 


strongly with the Liberal or Constitutional party. None of 
Lincoln's diplomatic appointments so angered the South as 
this one. If the new President at Washington had searched 
the country to discover the one man most hateful to the hot 
spirit of ' 'Colonel John" he could have made no better selec 
tion. That Corwin, like himself, a native Kentuckian 
only added to his fury. But the very things that made Tom 
Corwin odious to Southerners assured him the warmest re 
ception in Mexico. Mr. Burwell, the already quoted Virginian 
who intended to approach the Mexican problem by way of the 
Catholic Church, expresses this anger in a letter to Toombs, 
March 14, 1861, As his first diplomatic appointment, Mr. 
Burwell says, Lincoln sends to Juarez the man who "welcomed 
Americans with bloody hands to hospitable graves in Mexico." 
Evidently Mr. Lincoln thought that the main battle was to be 
fought south of the Rio Grande, since he had sent there "a 
man who sided with Mexico in a war with his own country 
for the free-soil cause." 7 The episode in question concerned 
the most important fact in Corwin's career his hatred of 
slavery, and the part he had played in obstructing its extension. 
A Kentuckian turned Abolitionist such was the spectacle that 
made the Corwin name detested throughout Dixie. For Corwin 
was no mild or philosophic dissentient; he carried his opposi 
tion into every phase of life. His career had been a conspicu* 
ous one. Congressman in 1830, Governor of Ohio in 1840, 
United States Senator in 1845, Secretary of the Treasury in 
the Cabinet of President Fillmore such were the rewards 
that had crowned Corwin, largely as the result of his fight 
against the Southern tenet. And his opposition had been effec 
tive, for he was one of the most brilliant stump speakers of a 
period prolific in that art. Though soaring earnestness was his 
main quality, Corwin's speech at times became biting, danger 
ously witty, compact of those unforgettable phrases which 
pass into contemporary speech. Mr. Burwell recalls above one 

7 Picket* Papers, Library of Congress* 











of these epigrams, uttered in a Senate debate on the Mexican 
War. It had dogged the Kentuckian for the rest of his days. 
Corwin formed a member of the Congressional coterie op 
posed to this aggression. In this he had distinguished associates. 
While Corwin berated President Polk in the Senate, Abraham 
Lincoln and Alexander H, Stephens were assailing him in the 
House, but the eloquence of the Representatives reached no 
such vituperative stage as that of the gentleman in the upper 
chamber. "If I were a Mexican I would tell you : Have you 
not room in your own country to bury your dead men? If 
you come into Mexico we will greet you with bloody hands and 
welcome you to hospitable graves." In the South this oration 
transformed Corwin into the inevitable "traitor," but in the 
North the orator became something of a hero; Horace 
Greeley, in the Tribune, promptly nominated him for Presi 
dent. Corwin did not attain that office, but, from 1850 to 1860, 
he was one of the most forceful characters in America, more 
and more impassioned on the antislavery side. 

That speech had metamorphosed him into one of the heroes 
of Mexico. The ministers who had been accredited from Wash 
ington in the fifties Gadsden, Forsyth, McLane had all 
been Southerners. They had spent most of their time at 
tempting to slice off large segments of Mexican soil to swell 
the territory of an already fat Northern neighbor. But Corwin 
was a diplomat whose career disclosed his opposition to this 
kind of treatment. Here was a Yankecito after Mexico's own 
heart! Corwin had still other advantages. He was by nature 
a diplomat. Impressive personally, a man of big frame, 
muscular, active, with an open, genial countenance, frequently 
given to laughter, he presented a different type from the 
grim, forbidding, self-satisfied American temperament which 
too frequently marked the opponents of slavery. He had taken 
over the opinions of New England, but he had remained, in 
disposition, completely Kentuckian. Nor did his exhortation to 
"hospitable graves" represent his usual platform manner. 


Corwin really believed that his reputation for wit had de 
stroyed his political career at least, that it had prevented 
his progress to even higher posts than he reached. "Tom" 
Corwin's humor and charm had made him the most pop 
ular man in Ohio, but had injured his standing as a serious 
statesman. His advice to young men about to embark in 
public life was always the same : Never be funny ! Always as 
sume an air of the most profound gravity I "The world," he 
said, "has a contempt for the man who entertains it." That 
may be true of statesmanship, but it is not so true of diplomacy, 
where the ability to amuse people, to fraternize, to be al 
ways good-natured and unruffled is a priceless asset. Especially 
was this the case with people so childlike as the Mexicans. 
The politicians then uppermost in Mexico naturally felt sus 
picious of Pickett, familiar to them for years as a filibusterer 
in Central American countries and an agent of annexation, 
and at once attached themselves to Corwin, their friend in 
difficult times and the representative of that part of the United 
States less conspicuous in efforts to dismember their country. 
In June of 1861 these two diplomats stood facing each 
other, in a sense literally, for Pickett had taken up head 
quarters in the Hotel Iturbide, directly opposite the modest 
United States legation. "Your mission is a difficult one," a 
Mexican friend of Pickett, Senor Mata, wrote him on his ar 
rival at Vera Cruz. That remark did not lack a sardonic qual 
ity. The Mexican himself was not destitute of humor, and the 
appearance of a representative of Jefferson Davis in the guise 
of conciliation was rated at its true worth. Davis had for years 
been the articulate spokesman of the American advance in 
Latin America. It was his desire to transform all Central 
America, as well as Cuba and the Caribbees, into American 
soil, all to the greater glory of slavery. It now became Pickett's 
mission to persuade the suspicious Latins that Davis, not 
Abraham Lincoln, was their friend, and that his chief ambition 
was to prevent their being swallowed up by an avaricious 


North. His general purpose was to convert them into allies in 
the great American conflict and to forestall assistance to the 
foe. In case of foreign intervention, the Confederacy so ran 
Toombs's instructions to Pickett could offer more protection 
to their Southern neighbor than the Federal Government. 
This latter was the all-important point, but there were other 
tangible ways in which Mexico could help. After all, only one 
boundary of the Confederacy was free from the Federal 
blockade; this was the Rio Grande River, the Mexican-Con 
federate frontier. Munitions and other supplies transported to 
Mexico from Europe could be smuggled across this line into 
the Southern states; Confederate products, above all, cotton, 
could be shipped in the opposite direction to a transatlantic 
market. Across the same frontier, Confederate forces could 
easily invade Mexico, in case of misbehavior: it therefore 
offered a vantage point from which the new nation could 
constantly threaten her neighbor. "Mexico being co-terminous 
with the Confederate states," read Toombs's ominous letter, 
"renders the existence of a friendly alliance with the latter of 
the highest importance to the former." Then Vera Cruz was 
an important port; its docks were constantly full of foreign 
ships. Could not these, or some of them, be enlisted in the 
Confederate service as privateers? Pickett carried to Mexico 
twenty blank commissions of this kind, signed by Jefferson 
Davis, though he does not seem to have met such success in 
persuading sea captains to accept them. 

Obviously the first duty laid upon the American minister 
was to prevent Mexico from entering into any treaty or 
alliance with the enemy, and not to permit its territory to be 
used in any way that would advance the interests of the South. 
On the other hand he was expected to make Mexico, in so far 
as possible, an agency of the American government. Both these 
objects Corwin accomplished. Pickett resided in Mexico seven 
months, from June until December. In that time he obtained 
only one interview with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and 


though he addressed many communications to that official, re 
ceived only one or two replies. President Juarez never received 
the Confederate and practically all the other functionaries 
gave him a wide berth. Pickett first addressed the govern 
ment in a well-written, if bombastic, letter, given up largely to 
drawing comparisons between Mexico and his newly risen 
nation. They were both agricultural countries, Pickett ex 
plained, interested only in exchanging their natural products 
for articles of use from abroad. Their labor systems, while not 
identical, did not materially differ: African slavery and pe 
onage after all were essentially the same thing! Pickett de 
tected a close resemblance between the many uprisings in 
Mexico and the present upheaval in his own country. "What 
have your revolutions been," he asked, "but constant struggles 
of state sovereignty against controlled usurpation of power? 
We have but imitated the example of our southern neigh 
bors. 5 ' In both nations the motive for action had been "that 
noble spontaneous sentiment which yearns for political free 
dom." Beware of that northern nation ! "What will become of 
Spanish America when Yankee meddlesomeness and Puritan 
bigotry run riot throughout the hemisphere ?" Trust the South ! 
"By whom were belligerent rights first conceded to Mexico? 
By a Virginia President. 8 By whom was her 'absolute inde 
pendence first acknowledged and vindicated? By a Tennessee 
President, a Kentucky Senator and a South Carolina Envoy. 9 
Who defeated the McLane treaties?*' "Yankee senators." 

Five days elapsed before the agent of the Confederacy 
received a reply. Then Zamacona "kissed the hands of Senor 
Don Juan Pickett," and appointed the next afternoon for a 
meeting. The wary Mexican did not desire an interview at 
the Foreign Office, but requested Pickett to call at his home. 
His greeting had all the suavity to be expected from a Mexican 
but his remarks were mainly limited to congratulating Pickett 

8 James Monroe. 

9 Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and Joel R. Poinsett. 


on not asking for recognition or for a treaty of alliance; that 
caution was wise and very acceptable to Mexico ! "We parted 
with mutual assurances of friendship and esteem," Pickett re 
ported to Toombs. So far as practical results were concerned, 
that ended the first attempt of the Confederacy to establish 
diplomatic relations with Mexico. 10 Pickett had been granted 
the courtesy of a personal not an official reception, the 
usual procedure in situations of the kind, but had not obtained 
anything that suggested even remotely the cooperation of the 
Mexican Republic. 


Meanwhile, Thomas Corwin was meeting with considerably 
more favor. A regularly accredited diplomat, his position was 
more secure than that of Colonel John. Besides, for other 
reasons, Juarez wished to make his residence successful. His 
Government possessed, in considerable abundance, the one 
commodity of which Mexico then stood in urgent need. Fair 
words and promises Juarez might obtain from the Con 
federacy, but hard cash could be secured only from El Norte. 
Probably this pure-blooded Aztec had no greater love for 
the section lying north of the Potomac than for the South. 
Both Unionists and Confederates were Gringos and therefore 
obnoxious to patriotic Mexicans. "These jealous, exclusive 
people heartily wish there were a Chinese wall or Gulf of 
Fire," wrote Pickett, Surrounding their country and separat 
ing them from the eternal enemies of their race. . . . They 
shed each other's blood in torrents, but the fear of losing any 
portion of their unpeopled waste is the nightmare which 
haunts their imagination constantly." 11 True as it is that 
Southern statesmen had led in the dismemberment of Central 
America, the North had not been entirely a disinterested 

10 Pickett correspondence, Library of Congress, No. 3, 4, 5. 

11 Pickett Papers. 


spectator; not only the extension of slavery, but "manifest 
destiny," a term already in use, had been an inciting motive. 
Even Sefior Corwin himself, as his correspondence discloses, 
looked upon Lower California as legitimate prey. In June, 
1861, however, this was not the matter that weighed heaviest 
on the Mexican state. No Presidente ever occupied so hazard 
ous a seat as that on which Juarez was sitting when Corwin 
presented his credentials. He dominated the central section 
of his country with the City of Mexico as capital, and exercised 
an uncertain sovereignty over the South and East. He ruled 
this empire as the prize of a successful struggle against the 
Conservative party, composed of large landholders, aristo 
crats, and the Catholic Church; but these forces were still 
extremely vigilant, and were undermining Juarez in a hundred 

Mexico as a nation stood on the precipice of extinction. 
The patience of European powers had been exhausted. In 
July, two months after the American and Confederate envoys 
reached the country, Mexico announced the suspension of in 
terest payments on the national debt. Poor Juarez could 
hardly do otherwise; local chieftains were absorbing the 
Federal customs revenues; there was not a dollar in the 
treasury and even government troops and civil employes had 
received no pay for a considerable time. But this moratorium 
on debt service gave the European powers the excuse they 
had been seeking for several years. France and Great Britain 
suspended diplomatic relations ; soon afterward, they drew up 
a Convention in which Spain also joined for the seizure 
of Mexican ports. William H. Seward distrusted all three 
nations. With Corwin he now worked out a scheme for check 
mating the European advance* Why, asked Corwin, should 
the Federal Government not lend Mexico from $5,000,000 to 
$10,000,000 for the liquidation of the foreign claims and 
the reestablishment of domestic order? This would deprive 
European powers of all decent excuse for intervention. Seward 


was more canny : it would hardly do to place so large a sum as 
this in the hands of the needy Judristas! They might not use 
it to pay their debts, but might spend it in foolish enterprises 
of their own. A better plan would be for the United States to 
assume payments of the interest on the Mexican foreign debt. 
That would, or should, satisfy European creditors and give 
them no respectable excuse for bombarding the ports of 
Mexico and, what was more than likely, invading and seizing 
the choicest parts of its territory. 

Corwin and Juarez at once began negotiating a treaty on 
this basis. The American government was to advance for six 
years the money to pay interest, at three per cent, on Mexico's 
European debt amounting to $62,000,000. What guarantee of 
repayment was the friendly northern Republic to obtain? Ob 
viously there should be some security for the reimbursement 
of these considerable sums. Corwin pointed to the rich mineral 
lands in the states, Sonora, Sinaloa, Lower California, and 
Chihuahua; there were also great public dominions, so far 
uncultivated, in the same region. Above all, there were the rich 
estates of the Church which the Constitutionalists had ex 
propriated could not Mexico mortgage these assets to oblig 
ing Uncle Sam? Not improbably both Corwin and Seward, in 
stipulating these conditions to the bond, had an eye to the 
future. "It would probably end in the cession of the sovereignty 
to us," remarked Corwin. Seward injected into the treaty a 
definite clause that all these lands and mineral rights should 
become absolute in the United States in case Mexico de 
faulted after six years. Despite these concealed advantages, 
Corwin viewed the whole matter from a lofty plane. "The 
United States," he wrote Seward, "are the only safe guardians 
of the independence and true civilization of this continent." u 

This treaty, which would have had such vast historic con 
sequences, never went into effect; if it had done so, the Ameri 
can Union at the present moment would contain the states 

12 United States Instructions^ Vol. 28, No. 3. 


of Sonora, Chihuahua, Lower California, and Sinaloa com 
monwealths which, in their essential characteristics, would not 
differ much from the present Arizona and New Mexico. The 
United States Senate ended the splendid plan by withholding 
its approval. An overburdened Federal treasury was one 
reason for its unfriendly attitude; another was the refusal of 
France and England, on being questioned, to accept this 
guarantee of interest as a pacification of their claims; they 
stood out for the principal. But strange are the revenges of 
diplomacy. This rejected treaty exercised almost as much in 
fluence on Mexican relations at a critical moment as it would 
have, had it received the benediction of the Senate. The main 
purpose in the negotiations was to keep Mexico friendly to 
the North and hostile to the Confederacy. The abortive treaty 
accomplished both ends. For the year that the treaty was under 
consideration Juarez, in his foreign policy, remained a sub 
missive friend of Corwin and Seward. By the time it had 
failed in the Senate, Juarez was himself in flight and in no 
position to do the Federal Government good or ill. For the 
twelve months that Juarez held sway in Mexico, Thomas 
Corwin, by constantly dangling before Mexican eyes the 
prospect of ready money, had the whole situation in his 
hands. He had been instructed to frustrate any drawing to 
gether of Mexico and the Confederate Government. Above 
all, Seward insisted, it was his task to hold the European 
nations at bay, to prevent the invasion of Mexico, to make 
impossible any cooperation between France and the Con 
federacy in Mexico cooperation that might have gone far 
towards the general recognition of the Southern States. This 
struggle was fought out in other places than Mexico; in fact, 
it was then taking place in foreign capitals. American diplo 
macy in this great enterprise, as will appear, was ultimately 
successful. But to this great triumph Corwin made his contribu 
tion. Sir Charles Wyke, British Minister, kept assuring Corwin 
of the sincerity of British purposes, and Lord Lyons, the Brit- 


ish Minister at Washington, protested to Seward that Britain 
had joined France in the intervention merely to secure payment 
of their claims, and had no ulterior ends to serve, above all 
no desire to acquire territory. Both Corwin and Seward re 
ceived these statements suspiciously, but when, in April, 1862, 
the British sailed away from Vera Cruz, declining to have any 
part in the French invasion, it was evident that Great Britain's 
disavowal had been made in good faith. The dream of Em 
pire in Mexico thus became the exclusive possession of Na 
poleon. That was a mad adventure for which more experienced 
and more hard-headed British statesmanship had no stomach. 


Not for several months did Pickett learn how farcical his 
sojourn in Mexico City had been, and how utterly the Mexican 
officials had become wax in the hands of Thomas Corwin. 
Just before his departure, a letter came from the Confederate 
State Department informing its representative in Mexico that 
only one of his many and voluminous despatches had been re 
ceived. For half a year his superiors had been left in the dark 
about transactions in this important capital. Such a discovery 
would have startled a more even-tempered emissary than this 
Kentucky filibusterer. What, he anxiously asked himself, had 
become of these confidential documents? At Tampico, where 
Pickett sojourned a few days on his way home, all curiosity was 
satisfied. Here was stationed Don Santiago Tapia, commander 
in chief of the state of Taumalipas, through whose hands 
passed mail destined from Mexico to the Confederate States. 

"What became of such mail?" asked Pickett. It had all been 
intercepted, Don Santiago innocently replied, on the request 
of the American minister in Mexico. Senor Tomas Corbin was 
very exigent o (exacting) in matters of that kind. Again we be 
hold the ^ower of the purse I Here appears another of Cor- 


win's demands upon Juarez, which, in view of that anticipated 
loan, could not be denied. All of Pickett's secret communica 
tions, intended exclusively for the eye of Robert Toombs, had 
been sent to Juarez; that statesman, after reading the letters, 
transmitted them to the United States Minister, who in due 
course passed on the packets to Washington. u We should not 
be surprised," groaned Pickett, "that an impotent and cow 
ardly nation, such as Mexico, should have practiced such 

Certainly the unfortunate man had every reason to be ap 
palled when he remembered the contents of his letters. If 
Don Juan needed any further explanation of the indifference 
and even contemptuous hostility with which he had been 
treated, he had it now. Indeed, Pickett probably congratulated 
himself on getting out of the country alive. Mexicans are a 
hot and sensitive people, disposed to give vigorous and bloody 
expression to their emotions, and that Pickett should have 
been left undisturbed, while penning these sketches of the 
Mexican environment, is something of a mystery. But per 
haps the sense of humor which Mexicans undoubtedly possess 
eased their anger. The turgid sentiments uttered by Pickett in 
his messages to the Foreign Office, placed by the side of his 
real opinions in his despatches to Robert Toombs, would ap 
peal to any man's comic instinct. The contradictions must have 
delighted Thomas Corwin the Senator whose public career, 
in his own judgment, had been ruined by a too lively apprecia 
tion of the ridiculous. Even at this late day the process of 
looking on this picture, and then on that, is not without enter 

For Pickett's official proffer of friendship had been most 
complimentary, even wheedling, He had discovered, as already 
related, a close affinity between the purposes inspiring his own 
country and those that had guided Mexico for several decades. 
In striking a blow for liberty, "we have but imitated the ex 
ample of our southern neighbors." Mexicans were "a people 


whom I have learned to appreciate and esteem." Compare 
these salutations with the judgments he was confiding to the 
private ears of Robert Toombs. "Mexicans are a race of 
degenerate monkeys." "This country is in the hands of robbers, 
assassins, blackguards and lepers." "The government is the 
biggest robber of all." "Mexico City is the most disorderly 
city on the continent perhaps on the globe." The nation 
was in a state of "moral, political and financial anarchy"; 
eminent Mexicans were daily "put to death in cold blood." 
One popular phrase affords this commentator endless amuse 
ment. Cosa de Mexico the fashion of the country. Are the 
judges on the bench frequently well-known criminals? Cosa de 
Mexico! Can justice be purchased at a regulated tariff? Cosa 
de Mexico! The Chief of Police of Mexico City, Pickett 
reports, is "one Porfirio Diaz a notorious highwayman." 13 
Cosa de Mexico! The Deputy Chief was the graduate of a 
chain gang. "The highway is literally the highroad to riches, 
preferment and honor in this country." All such phenomena 
are Cos as de Mexico! 

Pickett was evidently doing even more indiscreet things 
than inscribing these thoughts on paper; he rather proudly 
repeats to Toombs the witticisms with which he frequently 
entertained jollifying friends. He was many times asked if 
the Confederacy was looking for recognition by the Mexican 
Government. Not at all, replied Pickett. "To the contrary my 
business is to recognize Mexico provided that I can find a 
government that will stand still long enough." Informed that 
many Mexicans were receiving commissions in Federal forces, 
Pickett expressed regret that the whole Northern army could 
not be officered by Mexicans. "I added also that they ought to 
be very careful not to be taken prisoners by the South, as they 
would, in that event, probably find themselves, for the first 
time in their lives, usefully employed in agricultural pursuits, 

13 Afterward the famous statesman. President of Mexico from 1877 to 1880 and from 
1884 to 1911. 


that is, hoeing corn and picking cotton." Pickett publicly re- 
pudiated suggestions, constantly made, that the South lusted 
for Mexican territory. "We would not take it as a gift with 
its population. 1 ' Reform is impossible in Mexico because of 
"the gross ignorance and superstition of the people if 
Mexico may be said to have a people/' 

The utter venality apparent on every hand came In for casti- 
gation. Had the Government obtained the memorandum ap 
pended to the private instructions from Mr. Toombs as it 
is not impossible that they did it would have appeared that 
Pickett intended to make corruption the foundation of his 
policy. For this paper was written by Pickett himself. "A mil 
lion or so of money judiciously applied would purchase our 
recognition by the government. The Mexicans are not over 
scrupulous and it is not our mission to reform their morals at 
this precise period." Sprinkled all over Pickett's despatches are 
references to this, the all-prevailing sin of Mexican politics. 
"Every Mexican has his price. He has an acute sense of touch 
as regards a certain yellow metal." The diplomat repeatedly 
complains of "the high price one has to pay for justice in this 

But these were merely general insults; more disastrous was 
the revelation afforded by Pickett's letters of Confederate 
policy. He was constantly proposing to Davis and Toombs 
that they join hands with the foreign powers then making war 
on the government to which he was accredited. Should Mexico 
make a treaty with the United States "it will be to our advan 
tage at once to take up the Conservative party and aid in 
restoring its leaders to power. . . . The Church is by no means 
dead there. . . . Southward is our destiny." At this very 
time Pickett was assuring Mexican officialdom that the Con 
federacy had no desire to expand in their direction. One pro 
posal in his diplomacy anticipates an offer made by Germany 
fifty years subsequently to Mexico. Americans have not yet 
forgotten Herr Zimmerman's offer to Venustiano Carranza, 


in 1917, on the verge of American participation in the World 
War. If Mexico would join Germany, the German Foreign 
Secretary proposed on this occasion, that nation, in the event 
of expected victory, would take back Texas, Arizona, and New 
Mexico, of which the United States had robbed her seventy 
years before. It is curious to discover this same idea in Con 
federate diplomacy of 1861. Let Mexico join forces with the 
Confederate States, and this same territory, when the war 
ended favorably, would be re-ceded to her. Whether Zimmer 
man would ever have redeemed his pledge we do not know; 
how seriously Pickett, in 1861, regarded his offer his inter 
cepted correspondence reveals. "There is no prospect of im 
provement, so long as Mexico is governed or attempted to 
be governed by Mexicans." The Confederacy should join 
the states then intervening in Mexico France, Great Britain, 
and Spain and with them carve up the country. "An alliance 
now is afforded," writes Pickett to Toombs, "the first, last and 
only opportunity of effectively excluding the United States 
from the possession of any of these magnificent territories 
upon our southern border, or laved by the Gulf of Mexico. 
Indeed, we might be able, in conjunction with those powers, 
and that of Spain, to render this Gulf forever a mare clausum 
to the United States, which would also be conclusive as to one 
aspect of the Mississippi River navigation question." "Our 
people must have an outlet to the Pacific. Ten thousand men 
in Monterey could control the entire northern part of this 
Republic." "Our revolution has emasculated the Monroe doc 
trine. ... I am now prepared to advocate any alliance which 
may check the expansion of the North." "We have a very bad 
neighbor across a narrow shallow stream and we must invoke 
the God Terminus and make new limits. There is no fear that 
the Rio Grande would prove our Rubicon." How about his 
protestations to the Mexican Government that the Confeder 
acy did not aspire to annex any Mexican state, and, indeed, 
was prepared to return great areas taken in the Mexican War? 


"It must not be supposed from the expression of the foregoing 
in diplomatic language that I am not fully impressed with the 
fact that 'manifest destiny' may falsify the disclaimer. No one 
is more impressed than the writer with the great truth that 
Southward the star of empire takes its way." Capture Mon 
terey at once! "It would secure us the permanent possession of 
that beautiful country." Take up a military position on the 
Rio Grande ! All pending problems with Mexico would be 
solved, and the future empire of the Confederacy made certain 
by the simple process of sending "30,000 Confederate diplo 
mats" across the boundary line. 

The "sly Corwin," as Pickett termed him, presently commit 
ted an even meaner act than intercepting this correspondence. 
Pickett himself fell a victim to one of those Cosas de Mexico 
with which he so liked to enliven his despatches. This humilia 
tion so he always insisted was the handiwork of the 
American diplomat in Mexico and "other wretches." Yet the 
blame, at least in part, attached to himself. It was the outcome 
of that intemperate, swashbuckling manner in which he took 
such pride. The whole story can be read in his lengthy, angry 
description. For Pickett, not only in his garrulous literary 
exercises but at the festive board in Mexican cafes, was fre 
quently surrounded by admirers to whom his inmost thoughts 
were an open book. Any military success of the boys in gray 
elicited a bibulous celebration. Bull Run naturally called forth 
the liveliest outburst. Toasts were drunk to Beauregard 
at that moment believed to have captured Washington. These 
fiestas naturally irritated the many Union sympathizers in 
Mexico and harsh words were bandied between the two groups. 
Yankees did not hesitate to hurl imprecations at Confederate 
leaders insults that quickly reached Pickett's sensitive ears. 
Jeff Davis was openly referred to as a "traitor," "a thief," 
and "a rebel." Ill-feeling waxed especially hot the day news 
arrived that Mason and Slidell, new Confederate envoys to 
England and France, had safely arrived in Havana. The Con- 


federates in Mexico City held a special celebration in honor 
of this achievement, all unconscious of the fate that quickly 
overcame those gentlemen. An American resident in Mexico, 
whom Pickett describes as "an unlucky pill-vendor by the name 
of Bennett," began to cast doubt on that information. "Pickett 
is spreading lies, as usual," this obnoxious Yankee reported. 
Clearly the time had come for action. Details of the subse 
quent combat are a little obscure; just which man came out on 
top cannot be determined from Pickett's narration, the only 
one at hand. The diplomat broke into Bennett's headquarters 
and slapped his face u with the back of my hand." Among 
Southern gentlemen such an affront could have only one sequel. 
Bennett was not a Southerner; being a peddler of patent medi 
cines it is not quite certain that he was a gentleman; but, re 
lates Pickett, u he is a larger and more powerful man than I." 
If so, Bennett must have been huge indeed, for Pickett was 
more than six feet tall. But he "refused the proffered gaunt- 
lett," and caused the fight "to degenerate into a mere bout of 
strikes and fisticuffs." The gigantic Yankee seized a club and 
made a frontal attack upon the intruder. "It became necessary 
to inflict upon him some chastisement," the latter records, 
"which I accomplished with no other weapons than my hands 
and feet." "Despatching that business I withdrew immedi 
ately" the reader gets the impression it was rather precipi 
tately; it is plain that the honors of the occasion were not all 

At any rate, the Yankee, who seems to have been fundamen 
tally a good-natured creature, was entirely satisfied with his 
showing and had no responsibility for subsequent proceedings. 
In a crestfallen explanation to his State Department the Con 
federate emissary insisted that there was more in his belliger 
ency than lay upon the surface. "Chastisement" of the abusive 
Northerner was only a by-product of a deep -diplomatic plan. 
Pickett intended to create an "incident" that would result in 
his expulsion from Mexico as a "pernicious intriguer." Such 


a culmination would have had something of an heroic aspect. 
After all, was he not an ambassador and has not the person 
of an ambassador been sacred from time immemorial? An 
affront like this would demand summary action. Those "thirty 
thousand diplomatic agents of the Confederacy'* would quickly 
cross the Rio Grande and add all the northern provinces of 
Mexico to the Confederate empire. 

The next evening, just as he was disrobing for bed there 
came a knock on Pickett's door and four heavily armed vil 
lainous-looking "scoundrels' 1 came into the room. The critical 
moment had arrived; evidently the ruse had succeeded. But a 
terrible humiliation lay in store for Don Juan, Instead of 
being served with an order commanding his departure from 
Mexico, Pickett found himself under arrest on a charge of 
"assault and~battery." The Government was treating him, not 
as a diplomat who had incurred its displeasure, but as an 
ordinary street brawler. Conducted to the assistant chief of 
police, he loudly insisted on his "diplomatic immunity.'' "I 
presume even a diplomatic agent has no right to go into a 
man's house and pound him," said this functionary. The rest 
of the story is long and tedious. The Confederate agent, pro 
testing at every step the inviolability of envoys, was conveyed 
to the Disputation city jail placed in an unlighted cell, 
already occupied by three derelicts of the Mexican gutters, and 
forced to spend twenty-four hours in this durance without 
food or bed clothes or fire. Release was offered on the most 
humiliating terms. Only an apology to the "pill-vendor" and 
an indemnity could set him free. "I would rather suffer death 
in its most hideous form," responded the envoy, "than to sub 
mit to such terms." He therefore remained a prisoner for 
thirty days, finally obtaining release by bribing the court 
in his own words, "by purchasing several hundred dollars' 
worth of justice." 

The experience taught the unlucky gentleman one truth 
that the Confederacy had no friends in Mexico and that fur- 


ther negotiations were a waste of time. He therefore left as 
soon as he could find a passage north. And like all govern 
ments, the Confederacy had no use for unsuccessful diplomats. 
All Pickett's attempts to exculpate himself made him only 
more odious in the eyes of Jefferson Davis. "Mexico is the 
grave of diplomatists," he wrote that statesman. Pickett re 
turned to New Orleans, went into the Confederate army, and 
served with credit. This was his natural forte; as a diplomat, 
fate was always against him. How impishly misfortunes fol 
lowed in his train Pickett did not learn until long after his 
return. The capture of his despatches he regarded as the evil 
stroke that had ended his usefulness. "This was a very un 
fortunate incident for me," he wrote President Davis, "or 
may I be permitted, so to speak, for my policy towards Mex 
ico." Except for this, Pickett evidently believed, his darling 
scheme of an alliance with Napoleonic France would have 
succeeded. Naturally, on his disembarking at New Orleans, 
attempts were made to repair the loss. Pickett spent several 
days and nights patiently making duplicates of the purloined 
communications. The task must have been a burdensome one, 
for the missing documents filled a fair-sized copybook. Taking 
all precaution against another miscarriage, Pickett carried 
the precious packet in person to Dr. Riddle, Postmaster of 
New Orleans. He explained to that functionary the nature of 
the contents, enjoining the utmost care and secrecy in forward 
ing the documents to Richmond. Dr. Riddle, greatly impressed, 
promised that he would give his personal attention to ensure 
safe transmission. This promise was carried out only too faith 
fully. For this Dr. Riddle was a spy in the employ of the Fed 
eral Government. Instead of sending the documents to the 
State Department in Richmond, he forwarded them to Mr. 
Seward in Washington. Naturally enough, Pickett's further 
commentaries on the Mexican mission lacked his customary 
exuberance. "Punching of heads by diplomatic agents," he 
wrote Davis, who never answered his letters, "is not exactly 


the style of thing for the latitude of Mexico. I did all of that 
sort of business which was necessary. Hos ego versiculos fed; 
alteri ferent honores" 14 

An appropriate memorial to Pickett survives to-day in 
Washington, in the manuscript division of the Library of Con 
gress. This first of Davis envoys not only played his part in 
Confederate diplomacy; it is owing to him that we possess 
the materials with which its history can be written. In some 
way never satisfactorily explained the whole diplomatic cor 
respondence of the Confederacy passed into Pickett's control. 
That train which left burning Richmond on the direful evening 
of April 2, 1865, carrying away the archives and treasure of 
the fleeing government, did not contain these valuable papers. 
Instead they were secretly placed in five trunks and hidden 
in a barn in Virginia. After many adventures they finally 
turned up in Canada, under the custody of Don Juan Pickett. 
Just what right he had to the documents, and just why he be 
came the dictator of their fate has never been disclosed. The 
papers of the Confederate State Department naturally had 
great historic value. Inevitably the Federal Government de 
sired to add these records of the "rebellion" to its archives. 
After protracted negotiation Pickett turned his treasure over 
to the Federal Government for a cash consideration of about 
$75,000. The transaction has left a stain upon his memory, 
but it has proved a priceless boon to students of Confederate 
diplomacy. The collection was brought to Washington, and, 
after leading a somewhat precarious existence in government 
buildings, at last found a definite resting place in the Congres 
sional Library. It has formed the basis for the account of 
Pickett' s mission given in the preceding pages, and will serve a 
similar purpose in other chapters dealing with the efforts of the 
Richmond State Department in foreign fields. 

14 1 made these little verses 5 let other* cany off the honor*. 




MEANWHILE the European continent was serving as a field for 
Mr. Toombs's diplomacy. Between Confederate efforts to 
"restore the Empire of the Montezumas" and its approaches 
to European thrones there existed a close connection. Prob 
ably, in the minds of Confederate statesmen, Great Britain 
and France presented the simpler problem of the two. The co 
operation of these European powers, indeed, was regarded as 
a certainty from the first. The South would never have under 
taken its hazardous enterprise had alliances with the leading 
Governments of Europe not been assumed as an essential part 
of the programme. Its attitude towards Great Britain and 
France was almost complacent. In seeking their friendship 
and trade, the Confederacy at times took the position of 
almost doing them a favor. The largest industries of both 
England and France had developed with Southern cotton as a 
basis. Both nations had many times tried to break this sub 
serviency and find their raw materials in other lands, only to 
return to the cotton fields of the American Southwest as the 
inescapable reliance. What if England and France did hate 
slavery? The fact remained that the spinners of Lancashire 
and northern France were as much a part of the American 
slave system as the Southern states themselves. In 1861 Jef 
ferson Davis believed that he held the economic salvation of 
these countries in the hollow of his hand; stop the supply of 
cotton and poverty and starvation would stalk their cities and 
countryside. Would France and England recognize the Con 
federacy? The real question was: would France and England 


survive as manufacturing nations? In view of this fundamen 
tal fact there seemed to be no doubt concerning the out 

So firmly was this belief settled in the Confederate mind 
that Toombs seemed to think that the appointment of a Com 
mission to Europe and a polite call by these diplomats on for 
eign Governments would quickly result in recognition. Of the 
trio selected for this mission, William Lowndes Yancey, of 
Alabama, was the only man who possessed the essential reputa 
tion and distinction. Pierre A. Rost was a Louisiana lawyer and 
judge, not nationally known ; his chief recommendations were 
his French origin, and a supposed familiarity with the Gallic 
tongue. Both these considerations rather injured than strength 
ened his position in France. His broken French made him an 
object of ridicule on the boulevards; moreover, the selection 
of a man of French antecedents, who had left France as a 
small child, rather offended than pleased French officials. 
An American with ancient American background and of laud 
able American career would have flattered this susceptible 
people, but a nowveau riche, even though one born in France, 
who took up his abode on the Rue Montaigne, and paraded up 
and down the Bois, airily announcing to all acquaintances, 
when asked for Southern news, "tout va bien" soon became 
something of a joke. That phrase in particular passed into a 
byword, and was quoted with characteristic French malice 
when news reached Paris that Mr. Rost's Louisiana planta 
tion was in possession of Federal troops. "Did President 
Davis," the Marquis de Lapressange asked Paul du Bellet, 
another Louisianan then sojourning in Paris, "have a special 
reason for confiding such a mission to a person of French 
birth? Has the South no sons capable of representing your 
country? 1 ' 1 

1 The Diplomacy of the Confederate Cabinet, by Paul du Bellet. Manuscript in Library 
of Congress. 


Neither did Mr. A. Dudley Mann prove more acceptable. 
British representatives in the United States sent most un 
favorable accounts of Mann to the Foreign Office. According 
to information forwarded by Robert Bunch, British Consul 
at Charleston, Mr. Mann was the son of "a bankrupt grocer"; 
moreover, his personal character was "not good." 2 This state 
ment does the envoy injustice. Mr. Mann belonged to an excel 
lent Virginia family, was well-educated and well-mannered, and 
had had some political and diplomatic experience in the service 
of the United States. But, as his career in Europe evinced, he 
lacked good sense and judgment, was too unobservant to see 
what was going on under his eyes, was turgid in conversation 
and in correspondence a kind of diplomatic Polonius, who 
hardly touched a situation without doing his Government harm. 

The third member, the leader of the delegation, was a man 
of different calibre. William Loundes Yancey was one of the 
best-known Americans of his day. Davis chose him for this 
mission, not because he liked the Alabamian, but because Yan 
cey was too influential a character in Southern public life to 
be ignored. Possibly there was also some truth in the malicious 
explanation prevalent at the time. The real reason for sending 
Yancey abroad so the whispers ran was to get him out 
of the country. His name had already appeared as a candi 
date for the Presidency. In a few months the Confederacy was 
to chose its permanent chief ; and Yancey's unguarded eloquence 
and chronic dissatisfaction with the existing regime made him 
a perpetual nuisance to those in power. He had no desire to 
go to Europe as Confederate envoy. Only the persistent urg 
ing of Davis finally elicited a reluctant consent. Davis's per 
sonal hostility to Yancey is evident.. In his Rise and Fall of the 
Confederate Government the President never once mentions 
Yancey by name, though Rost and Mann receive a compli 
mentary word. For twenty years this Alabamian had been a 

2 E. D. Adams, Great Britain and the American Civil War, Vol. I, 63. 


leader of the proslavery cause. He won state leadership 
swiftly by his eloquence as an orator. He was not a public 
man in the national arena, his service having been limited to 
a single term in Congress. Significantly this had been marked 
by a speech so extreme in its slavery views, so violent in its 
criticisms of opponent views that it led to a duel bloodless 
though several shots were exchanged with Thomas L. 
Clingman of North Carolina. For fifteen subsequent years 
Yancey's occupation had been that of "firing the Southern 
heart." In the slavery campaign he figured as the antitype of 
William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips; Yancey was 
just as rash and irreconcilable in eulogizing slavery as were 
the New England brethren in denouncing it. Like them he 
proposed, in the interest of his cause, to destroy the Union 
and tear up the Constitution. Thus the fame of Yancey which 
reached every American household and even penetrated the 
villages of Great Britain was that of the extremest of South 
erners, an advocate of Secession, of a Southern Confederacy, 
even of reopening the African slave trade. Enough black men 
should be imported from Africa, insisted Yancey, to provide 
every Southerner, rich and poor, city dweller or hillbilly, with 
at least one slave. Since both England and France detested 
slavery, "France," one writer of the period said, "trembled" 
with rage at the very word, to send the foremost stump 
speaker of the institution as ambassador to these nations looks, 
at least in retrospect, rather short-sighted. The mere appoint 
ment of Yancey emphasizes again the Toombs and Davis 
confidence in recognition by foreign powers. They apparently 
believed that Europe was so dependent on the Confederacy 
that Southern envoys, however obnoxious their opinions 
might be to European sentiment, would receive a cordial 

"To-night it was Yancey who occupied our tongues," Mrs. 
Chestnut writes in her Diary from Dixie for September 2, 
1861. "Send a man to England who has killed his father-in- 


law 8 in a street brawl! That was not knowing England or 
Englishmen, surely. Who wants eloquence? We want some 
body who can hold his tongue. People avoid great talkers, 
men who orate, men given to monologue, as they would avoid 
fire, famine or pestilence. Yancey will have no mobs to 
harangue. No stump speeches will be possible, superb as are 
his of their kind, but little quiet conversation is best with slow, 
solid commonsense people who begin to suspect as soon as 
any flourish of trumpets meets their ear." 

That was admirable, as a general statement of the case; yet 
one fact made a gift for monologue useful in the present in 
stance. In response to a request for an interview, Lord John 
Russell, then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, informed 
the Confederate Commissioners that it would give him pleas 
ure to hear what they had to tell him, "though, under present 
circumstances, I shall have little to say." The conversation, 
under the rules laid down by his lordship, necessarily became 
a one-sided one. Yancey, in accordance with Toombs's instruc 
tions, enlarged on the righteousness of the Confederate cause, 
gave an exposition of State rights, and declaimed on the jus 
tice of secession. Inevitably his discourse involved the vital 
importance of King Cotton. Unlike Pickett in Mexico, who 
had placed the question of recognition in abeyance, Yancey 
and his associate Mr. Mann Judge Rost was in Paris 
requested in so many words that the Queen acknowledge the 
Confederacy as a free and independent state and enter into 
a treaty of amity and trade. His lordship listened to the plea 
with all the polite attention and frigid reserve of which the 
English statesman of that era was so consummate a master. 
To not the slightest extent did he commit his Government. He 
thanked the Commissioners, said that the whole subject would 
be placed before the Cabinet at an early day, and bowed them 
out. Three days afterward, Yancey and his confreres had 

3 Mrs. Chestnut was m error. It was Mrs. Yancey's uncle, Dr. Robinson M. Earle, who 
was the victim of her husband's homicide. 


another, briefer meeting with the Foreign Secretary. That 
ended their personal intercourse. They remained in London, 
with occasional trips to Paris, for ten months, but the treat 
ment received was certainly not that usually extended to ac 
credited diplomats. This affected a haughty Southerner like 
Yancey, one of the greatest planters of his day, almost as sadly 
as did the total failure of his mission. One important act took 
place during Yancey's sojourn in London: the Queen's proc 
lamation of neutrality, giving the South the rights of belliger 
ents. But the Commission was not consulted on this, and knew 
nothing of it until the news appeared in the press. It would 
have been decided on, had the three eminent gentlemen never 
left the Southern states. British statesmen, always the most 
accomplished of snubbers, never exercised their art more ex 
pertly than in their disregard of this embassy. "It is perhaps 
proper to state," the agents wrote Toombs, after four months 
of weary exile, "that the Commission has not received the 
least notice or attention, official or social, from any member 
of the government since its arrival in England. This is men 
tioned in no spirit of complaint, but as a fact which the Presi 
dent may or may not deem of any consideration in weigh 
ing the conduct of this government towards the Confederate 
States." * 

What is the explanation for this apparently studied disre 
gard? It forms one of the most astonishing chapters in the 
history of American diplomacy. William H. Seward, Secre 
tary of State in the Lincoln Cabinet, presents a fascinating 
character, combining, as he does, so many contradictory traits. 
At times he was magnificently blunt and blustering, again he 
was fairly Jesuitical in subtlety. At one moment he showed a 
purring side, at another he could become fairly savage. One 
day he was proposing plans that seemed to involve the wreck 
age of his country, the next he moved with a silent caution 

4 Yancey, Rost, and Mann to Toomba, August 7, 1861. Official Records, Union and 
ConjederaU Navies, Series II, Vol. 3, p. 237. 


which suggested the unscrupulous Italian with whom he has 
inevitably been compared. Seward had been the chief con 
tender with Lincoln for the Republican nomination in 1860, 
and, after the November election, was looked upon as the 
inevitable man for the premier post in the new administration, 
Even before Lincoln's inauguration, while Seward was still 
Senator from New York, he had evidently fixed upon the one 
possible way of forestalling unfriendly action by Great Brit 
ain and France. At that time neither of these nations desired 
war with the United States, even a United States weakened by 
domestic convulsion. The general political situation in Europe 
made such an adventure unwelcome to either power. The one 
way of preventing recognition, in Seward's opinion, was to 
play upon this apprehension. British aversion to war here 
was Seward's one diplomatic card. That it required courage, 
even audacity, to play it, was evident, but in this threat of 
war lay America's best chance to defeat Southern plans for 
European help. Presently Lord Lyons, British Minister in 
Washington, was sending disturbing reports about this dis 
agreeable Yankee, destined soon to head the American State 
Department. The man seemed determined to pick a quarrel 
with England. At dinner tables in Washington he was talk 
ing without the slightest restraint. On such occasions Seward 
openly proclaimed his favorite plan for solving the problems 
of Secession and reuniting North and South. This was nothing 
less than embarking on a war with Great Britain or France, 
or even with both. Once engaged in such a contest, Yankee 
and Rebel would lay aside their family row, and join forces 
in fighting the foreign foe. It comes as something of a surprise 
to discover, from the diplomatic correspondence of the time, 
that this kind of talk produced uneasiness in high British 
circles. Lord Lyons was particularly disturbed. Mr. Seward, 
as Secretary of State, he wrote Russell, "would be a danger 
ous foreign minister." That the Foreign Secretary held similar 
views his despatches indicate. "If it can possibly be helped," 


he wrote Lyons, "Mr. Seward must not be allowed to get us 
into a quarrel. I shall see the southerners when they come, but 
unofficially and keep them at a proper distance." 

Most commentators look upon Seward's blustering tactics 
as verging close upon madness. Engage in a war with Britain 
at a time when the Union was battling for life with the Con 
federacy? Perhaps, however, the man was not insane, after all. 
At least it is evident that had Seward's purpose been to create 
a certain impression in the British mind, it actually did produce 
that effect. As the story of American relations with Great 
Britain unfolds, the one fact that stands out above all others 
is the desire of Britain to avoid war with the United States, 
even in its crippled condition. In certain diplomatic crises the 
proper procedure is suavity, insinuation, persuasion; in others, 
directness and defiance are the only measures to success. 
Seward evidently believed that the European crisis of 1861 
demanded diplomacy of the latter type. Therefore he con 
tinuously and in public preached European war as the one 
way out of the domestic impasse. When he entered the Cab 
inet, the ideas so unguardedly set forth in conversation became 
his official attitude. His famous "Thoughts" to Lincoln 
a memorandum on perils, domestic and foreign, submitted 
to the President in April, 1861 again advocated foreign war 
as the one way to national safety and reconciliation. At almost 
the same time he conveyed the same warning officially to both 
the British and French Governments. Both Lord Lyons and 
Mercier were notified, face to face, that recognition of the 
Confederacy would mean war with the United States. Seward 
instructed Charles Francis Adams, American Minister to the 
Court of St. James's, to serve this notice on the Foreign Sec 
retary. "If any European power provokes war," Seward in 
formed him, "we shall not shrink from it." The instructions 
sent to William L. Dayton, the new Minister to France, were 
the same. "Foreign intervention," Dayton was ordered to say 
to the French Government, "would oblige us to treat those 


who should yield it as allies of the insurrectionary party and 
to carry on the war against them as enemies. . . . The Presi 
dent and the people of the United States deem the Union, 
which would then be at stake, worth all the cost and all the 
sacrifices of a contest with the world at arms, if such a con 
test should prove inevitable." In conversation with Mercier, 
the French Minister in Washington, Seward abandoned all 
restraint. The United States, the French diplomat was bluntly 
told, would go to war with any nation that attempted to inter 
fere in the prevailing quarrel. "We may be defeated," Seward 
added, "but France will at least know that there has been 

a war." 

It would be interesting to speculate on the course of history 
had these American threats failed of their purpose, had Eng 
land and France, despite them, recognized the Confederacy 
as an independent nation. The likelihood is that had these 
Governments taken this step, the American civil contest would 
have been transformed into a world war. This fact Seward 
completely understood and he understood also the unwilling 
ness of England to start such a conflagration. If his attitude 
was therefore audacious it was an audacity of a splendid kind, 
and it had the supreme justification of success. When news 
reached Washington that Lord John Russell had received 
the Yancey Commission "unofficially," Seward acted in a way 
that persuaded the English statesman that America had decided 
on its course of action. The message sent to Mr. Adams for 
transmission to the British Government was one of the most 
formidable that ever issued from the American State Depart 
ment. It was so menacing, indeed, that President Lincoln spent 
much time revising it blue-penciling certain passages, oblit 
erating others, and adding phrases of his own that gave the 
document a more friendly character. And Lincoln overruled 
Seward in an even more important respect. The Secretary 
had instructed Mr. Adams to read this despatch to the For 
eign Minister and present him with a copy. But Lincoln re- 


fused to permit this. As finally sent, the paper was for Adams's 
eyes alone, and was intended to form the basis of representa 
tions to the British Government. Seward's disappointment with 
this Presidential veto had a characteristic sequel. If he could 
not get the paper before Lord Russell directly he was appar 
ently determined to do so in subterranean fashion. One eve 
ning, about two weeks after the censored despatch had started 
on its way to London, the Secretary of State summoned to 
his house Mr. William H. Russell, correspondent of the 
London Times. "The Secretary lit his cigar/' the journalist 
relates, "gave one to me, and proceeded to read slowly and 
with marked emphasis a very long, strong and able despatch, 
. which he told me was to be read by Mr. Adams, the American 
minister in London, to Lord John Russell. It struck me that 
the tone of the paper was hostile, that there was an undercur 
rent of menace through it, and that it contained insinuations 
that Great Britain would interfere to split up the Republic, 
if she could, and was pleased at the prospect of the dangers 
that threatened it. ... I ventured to express an opinion that 
it would not be acceptable to the government and people of 
Great Britain." 5 As W. H. Russell was on the most confidential 
relations with Lord Lyons, news of this seance undoubtedly 
reached the destination Seward intended, and it also gave this 
influential writer an insight into the state of mind of Washing 
ton at that critical moment. 

Even in its amended form this communication came very 
close to being an ultimatum. It practically instructed Adams 
to desist from personal relations with Great Britain if that 
nation persisted in having further dealings with Yancey. 
"Intercourse of any kind with the so-called commissioners is 
liable to be construed as a recognition of the authority which 
appointed them. . . . You will in any event desist from all 
intercourse whatever, official as well as unofficial, with the 
British government so long as it shall continue intercourse of 

5 My Diary: North and South, Vol. I, pp. 102-103. 


either kind with the domestic enemies of this country. When 
intercourse shall have been arrested for this cause, you will 
communicate with this department and receive further in 

When Adams called at the Foreign Office, in early June, to 
fulfill what he called "the most delicate portion of my task," 
Lord Russell was prepared to receive him. His Minister in 
Washington had kept him well informed on the excitement 
caused in America by the presence of the Confederate Com 
missioners in London and by the British recognition of 
Southern belligerency. Lord Lyons knew all about Seward's 
threatening despatch and Lincoln's modifications, and his recent 
letters from Washington had contained much about the be 
havior of this forthright Secretary of State. Lord Russell be 
lieved that the time had come to pacify the high-tempered 
Yankees. He had been favorably impressed by Mr. Adams as 
Minister, and he was particularly gratified at the very tactful 
manner in which the views of the American State Department 
were now set forth. Adams did not omit a single detail of his 
instructions, but he did it in the most courteous way. "It was 
not to be disguised," so Adams paraphrased his remarks in 
his official report, "that the fact of the continued stay of the 
pseudo-commissioners in this city, and still more the knowledge 
that they had been admitted to more or less [sic] interviews 
with his lordship, was calculated to excite uneasiness. Indeed 
it had already given great dissatisfaction to my Government. 
I added, as moderately as I could, that in all frankness any 
further protraction of this relation could scarcely fail to be 
viewed by us as hostile in spirit, and to require some cor 
responding action accordingly." 

Here was extremely plain talking, politely as it might be 
phrased, but Lord Russell was in the most amiable frame of 
mind. There was nothing unprecedented in receiving un 
officially such envoys, he said. He had recently given interviews 
to Polish, Hungarian, and Italian revolutionists all en- 


gaged in operations against Governments with which Great 
Britain was at peace. Such interviews represented merely one 
method of obtaining desirable information; not remotely 
were they intended as recognition of insurrectionary move 
ments. Now Russell came to the crux of the matter. He had 
seen the Southern gentlemen once some time ago and a once 
more some time since." 

"But," he concluded, "I have no intention of seeing them 
any more." 

This was not a positive pledge, but it came pretty close to 
being one. Mr. Adams retired content with the agreeable out 
come of what had promised to be a difficult meeting. 


The final scene in this diplomatic drama was enacted in the 
latter part of August. The setting, however, was not a dis 
tinguished one. There was no face-to-face association of Con 
federate Ministers with the chief dignitary of the British 
Foreign Department; in this Lord John Russell faithfully 
kept his word. Naturally the battle of Bull Run strengthened 
the position of the Confederacy in London, and correspond 
ingly raised the hopes of Yancey that a new prospect had been 
opened for recognition. Clearly, so he reasoned, the one doubt 
that had made the British Government hesitate had now been 
removed. After that picture of the Federal troops, so luridly 
drawn by W. H. Russell in the London Times, troops 
scampering from the Southern lines, and pouring into Wash 
ington a half-crazed, muddy, disheveled mob, could there 
be any longer doubt of the ability of the Confederacy to main 
tain its independence? Now was there any question that the 
South was invincible? Was this not all the evidence the world, 
including the British Foreign Office, needed to prove that a 
new nation had been established? At once Yancey and Mann 


and Rost presented a demand on the Foreign Office for the 
recognition of the Southern States. A note was despatched to 
Russell, asking for an interview. In reply the Southern legates 
received the following: u Earl Russell presents his compliments 
to Mr. W. L. Yancey, Mr. A. Dudley Mann, and would be 
obliged to them if they would put in writing any communica 
tions they wish to make to him." 

One did not have to be a proud and high-tempered Southern 
gentleman to feel, to the full, the almost studied insult of this 
rejoinder. It was not a note from Her Majesty's principal 
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but from "Earl Russell," 
a private citizen. It was not dated from the headquarters of 
the British Foreign Department, but from "Pembroke Lodge," 
the writer's residence in the country. Despite this, Yancey and 
his fellows swallowed their pride and wrote a lengthy letter, 
describing Southern triumphs and basing upon them a claim for 
the recognition of independence. In reply little more than an 
acknowledgment was received. Yet the bewildered Southerners 
still kept at their ungrateful task, even addressing further 
letters to the Foreign Secretary. In early December, however, 
the farce came to an end. 

"Lord Russell," read that diplomat's final note to the 
Commissioners, "presents his compliments to Mr. Yancey, 
Mr. Rost and Mr. Mann. He has had the honor to receive their 
letters of the 27th and 30th of November, but in the present 
state of affairs he must decline to enter into any official com 
munication with them." 

Here was a different attitude from the one that the Cotton 
Belt had anticipated when it formed its Confederacy, depend 
ing, as a matter of course, upon recognition from Great Britain 
and France. The famous theory of "King Cotton" had proved 
to be a delusion at the first test. Great Britain did not have the 
most distant intention of risking an unnecessary war with the 
United States in order to assure itself regular supplies of 
an almost indispensable material of manufacture. Similarly 


Mr. Seward's diplomacy had succeeded at this, its first trial. 
He had almost peremptorily demanded that the British Foreign 
Office shut its doors on any envoys speaking in behalf of the 
Confederate States. In reply Lord Russell had promised 
Mr. Adams not to see the Southern Commission "any more" 
and, in this final brusque note to Yancey and his companions, 
had declined to receive even written communications in the 
future. This experience ended Yancey's brilliant but futile 
career. He served for a brief period, after returning from 
England, as a Confederate Senator from Alabama, but he 
was already afflicted with a mortal and painful disease. He 
died in July, 1863, at the age of forty-eight. Pierre Rost 
lingered for a time in the congenial atmosphere of Paris, but 
not as a Confederate envoy. A. Dudley Mann spent the next 
three years in several diplomatic ventures, all as unsuccessful 
as this first attempt in London. With the collapse of these first 
Mexican and European missions the diplomacy of Robert 
Toombs came to a close. His work as Secretary of State can 
hardly be regarded as a success ; the fact is that he had little 
interest in that department, and gladly retired, long before 
the Yancey embassy came home, and entered the Confederate 
army as Brigadier General. 




ONE member of the Davis Cabinet viewed with little pleasure 
these awkward essays in the foreign field. This was the adviser 
nearest to the Presidential ear, the gentleman known, then and 
since, as the u brains of the Confederacy." Judah P. Benjamin's 
official status in 1861 did not warrant so pretentious a title. 
His position, that of Attorney General, was the emptiest one 
in the Government. The Confederacy never developed a 
judicial system. The vast mechanism of law enforcement 
created by the Federal organization played no part in the 
Davis scheme of things. The Confederate Constitution pro 
vided for a Department of the Judiciary but, in the more 
pressing need of forming an army, a navy, a treasury, and 
other indispensable forces of warfare, the establishment of 
civil courts was postponed. The already existing state and local 
tribunals fulfilled the ordinary demands of law and justice. 
Thus the ambitious lawyer who enjoyed the distinction of 
Attorney General found himself with little occupation. Now 
and then he gave advice on constitutional points, made studies 
of such questions as privateering and the status of belligerents; 
for the larger part of the time, however, the man generally 
regarded as the ablest in the Davis Cabinet was obliged to find 
other employment. 

His little office was bare of furniture, and entertained few 
visitors; even that throng of placemen who pestered his 
colleagues, most of whom, unlike Benjamin himself, were the 
dispensers of jobs, passed it by. Russell of the London Times, 
most persistent ferret of notabilities, did indeed discover the 
"most brilliant of the Southern orators," while making his 


famous tour of the Southern Cabinet, in May, 1861. The 
picture he drew for the British public did not gratify its sub 
ject. "Mr. Benjamin is a short, stout man, with a full face, 
olive-colored, and most decidedly Jewish features, with the 
brightest large black eyes, one of which is somewhat diverse 
from the other, and a brisk, lively, agreeable manner, com 
bined with much vivacity of speech and quickness of utterance. 
He is one of the first lawyers or advocates in the United States, 
and had a large practice in Washington, where his annual 
receipts from his profession were not less than 8,000 to 
10,000 a year. But his love of the card table rendered him a 
prey to older and cooler hands, who waited till the sponge 
was full at the end of the session and then squeezed it to the 
last drop. Mr. Benjamin Is the most open, frank and cordial of 
the Confederates whom I have yet met." * 

It is not surprising that Russell felt an interest in the bright- 
eyed, energetic little man then impatiently filling a purely 
honorary post. Most Englishmen found him the most beguiling 
character in the Southern group. There was one reason, above 
all, for this curiosity. At that moment another member of 
the Jewish race was rising to power in Great Britain. Benjamin 
Disraeli was rapidly advancing to the primacy of the British 
Cabinet the same height which his Secession compatriot 
reached in the Confederacy at an earlier day. "Have you read 
Benjamin's speech?'' asked Sir George Cornwall Lewis of 
Lord Sherbrooke, referring to the Louisianan's farewell ad 
dress to the Senate in February, 1861, recently printed in the 
London papers. "Yes," was the reply, "it is even better than 
our own Benjamin could have done." Inevitably these two 
Jewish leaders in Anglo-Saxon lands have been compared. And 
they had more in common than their admirers are inclined to 
admit. First and all-important they were both Sephardic Jews. 
Vast differences exist among the several divisions of Israel, 
but the descendants of the people who wielded such great in- 

1 My Diary North and South, Vol. I, p. 254. 


fluence in the Iberian peninsula before their expulsion in 1492 
have always been accepted as the aristocracy of the race. At 
this dispersion the ancestors of Disraeli fled to northern Italy, 
whence they found their way, in the course of three centuries, 
to England. At the same tragic moment the progenitors of 
Judah P. Benjamin fled to Holland, making an easier transit 
to London three hundred years afterward. The immediate 
parents of these two statesmen arrived in the British capital at 
almost the same time, in the latter part of the eighteenth 
century. Thus both the American and the British Benjamins 
were born British subjects. Disraeli's father, author of the 
Curiosities of Literature, was a more distinguished person than 
Judah's, the keeper of a dried-fish shop in Cheapside, and one 
of those rarest of mortal men, a Jew who was an unsuccessful 
merchant; but the atmosphere of their early lives, particularly 
on the social side, had much in common. 

Spanish and Portuguese Jews, then and since, have occupied 
a place apart. They are physically and mentally as different 
from the German and the Eastern Jews who have immigrated 
in such vast numbers to America as they are from their u Aryan" 
brethren. Sharp-featured, thin-lipped, long-skulled, black- 
haired, with high foreheads, frequently with slender, lofty 
stature, they have stood out, above all, for intellectual attain 
ments, for artistic talents, for careers in the professions and in 
scholarship. Few in numbers, usually having maintained a long 
residence in their homes of exile, the Sephardic Jews of 
New York have been part of that city's life since the days of 
Peter Stuyvesant, they walk with a haughty reserve amid 
their coreligionists. The time was when intermarriage between 
a Spanish Jew and one from Germany or Russia was as rare 
and as much frowned upon as one between Protestant and 
Catholic. Both Disraeli and Benjamin were intensely proud 
of this origin. Significantly the same well-worn anecdote is 
told of both. Once declaimed against in the United States 
Senate as "that Jew from Louisiana," Benjamin, it is said, re- 


plied : "It is true that I am a Jew, and when my ancestors were 
receiving their ten commandments from the immediate hand 
of Deity, amidst the thunderings and lightnings of Mount 
Sinai, the ancestors of the distinguished gentleman who is 
opposed to me were herding swine in the forests of Scandi 
navia." Precisely the identical retort is attributed to Disraeli, 
on a similar provocative occasion in the House of Commons. 
As an anecdote, it is probably true of neither, but as a story 
picturing racial haughtiness and contempt for a hostile Gentile 
world, it is absolutely true of both. 

Yet, Disraeli and Benjamin, despite their pride of origin, 
departed from their ancestral inheritance. Neither was what 
the orthodox call an "observant Jew." Disraeli joined the 
Church of England; Benjamin, so far as can be learned, died 
a Roman Catholic and is buried in consecrated ground. Both 
men married outside their faith Disraeli one of the most 
English of Englishwomen, Benjamin one of the most French 
of French. Both had a favorite sister Disraeli his beloved 
Sarah, Benjamin his "darling Penny." Both men rose to high 
political station as orators; both became leaders of conserva 
tism, defenders of established things; both were protectionists. 
Disraeli battled for the rights of landlords no less valiantly 
than did Benjamin for the sugar planters of his chosen state. 
In the outlook of both statesmen the sense of grandeur, of 
Oriental splendor, of imperialism exercised its spell. Benjamin 
strove to extend American prestige over Mexico, Central 
America, and the Caribbean, just as Disraeli struggled for 
British empire in the East Disraeli's great coup in preserving 
the Suez Canal for England even finds a parallel in the per 
sistence with which Benjamin strove to link Atlantic and Pacific 
Oceans by a railroad across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. 
"When we cross this isthmus," cried Benjamin, in one of his 
rare outbursts of exuberance, "what have we before us? The 
eastern world !" It might have been Disraeli who was speaking. 

The careers of both abound in those picturesque contrasts 


that make up the glamour of biography. The derided dandy 
who became ruler of the British Empire found a fellow ad 
venturer in the friendless youngster, who, reaching New 
Orleans with four dollars in his pocket, rose to be one of the 
most successful lawyers of his day, Senator of the United 
States, the occupant of three Cabinet posts in the Confederacy, 
and finally, in old age, dressed in judicial white wig, black silk 
breeches, black silk stockings, and silver buckled shoes, ended 
his career as Queen's counsel and leader of the London bar. 
In one respect, however, the two men were unlike, and it is a 
difference that has harmed Benjamin's fame. Disraeli was 
talkative, showy, given to extravagances of speech and be 
havior, much inclined to set down his thoughts in letters to 
a multitude of friends, men and women. When he died a huge 
accumulation of such memorials provided abundant harvest 
for his biographers. Benjamin was close-mouthed, retiring, in 
stinctively shrinking from confidences, never displaying his 
inmost thoughts to outsiders. He never talked of himself or 
his past, kept silence on his early life and struggles, seemed, 
indeed, to have almost a pathologic reluctance to self-exploita 
tion. This constant living in an inner sanctuary made the 
world suspicious, critical, even at times denunciatory. Few 
men in American public life have been the victims ,of more 
unpleasant adjectives. 

Only the uncomplimentary terms used to describe the per 
son of detachment have been lavished on Benjamin. "Furtive," 
"sphinx-like," "enigmatic," "secretive," "wily," "sly" such 
are the words leveled at a man whose only sin was perhaps a 
fastidious disinclination to share his personal life with his 
fellows. James G. Blaine called him the "Mephistopheles of the 
Rebellion, the brilliant, sinister, secretary of state." Benjamin 
insisted on keeping an intrusive world at a distance, not only 
in his lifetime, but forever. He took all possible pains that 
posterity should know no more about him than his con 
temporaries. His habit of destroying papers grew to be a 


mania. No adequate biography of Benjamin will probably ever 
be produced. All his days he struggled against such a possibility. 
As soon as he read a letter, it vanished into the flames. In old 
age Benjamin sought out his own correspondence in all pos 
sible quarters and destroyed it. His last days were devoted to 
this task of incineration. To an Englishman who wished ma 
terial for writing his life and asked for help, Benjamin replied, 
"I have never kept a diary or retained a copy of a letter written 
by me. No letter addressed to me by others will be found 
among my papers when I die." At death, says Mr. Pierce 
Butler, his only biographer, "he did not leave behind him half 
a dozen pieces of paper." Neither Benjamin's wife nor his 
daughter possessed any memoranda that gave the slightest 
data on his career. His New Orleans relatives, it is true, have 
preserved a dozen or so letters written to Benjamin's sisters, 
and these are so delightful and revealing, so full of affection 
and warm human instinct that they go a long way toward 
disproving the "sinister" nature imputed to the writer. The 
man who could write so genuinely to "Sis, Hatty and Leah," 
display such tender solicitude for nieces and nephews, was 
not the acrid, unprincipled despiser of humankind that, in an 
era vibrant with hate, he was pictured, One wonders if this 
aversion to the literary prowlings of another time did not 
have a palpable explanation. Was there some passage in 
Benjamin's life which made a sensitive nature shrink from 
intimacy and personal confidence? 

Probably the nature of the man himself explains this 
tendency always to keep his ideas and his motives secluded 
from the outer world. It is true, on the other hand, that one 
unhappy incident of his early life must be taken into considera 
tion in any attempt to understand his career. This took place 
when Benjamin was little more than a boy, in his sixteenth 
year. It is significant of his precocity that he should have 
entered Yale at fourteen. Of the circumstances attending his 
earliest days little is knpwn. Born in Saint Thomas, in 1811, 


taken to Charleston with his family as an infant, he grew up 
in a home which, while impoverished by the father's lack of 
business success, was not completely destitute of refinement. 
Of the family of seven three boys and four girls Judah 
Benjamin was the most promising. Though authentic details 
of his childhood cannot be obtained, such reminiscences as 
survive emphasize the traits that became familiar in after life. 
The boy was bright, handsome, ambitious, invariably leading 
his class in school. At Fayetteville Academy, according to all 
accounts, he made a brilliant record; the next chapter rather 
abruptly discovers him a freshman in Yale College. This New 
England institution had long been a favorite with South 
Carolina, despite the high order of Federalism inculcated and 
the strong antislavery sentiments of its teaching staff. Young 
as he was, Benjamin plunged into the lively debates that then 
comprised the main extra-curricular activity, upholding, against 
the prevailing views of his associates, the most destructive 
opinions of his own section. On the personal side he was liked 
and admired, and in scholarship his rank was an excellent one. 
Benjamin's name appears in the catalogues of 1825, 1826, 
and 1827 then silently and mysteriously vanishes from the 
college records. Soon after the beginning of junior year, just 
before Christmas, Benjamin departed from New Haven for 
reasons that have never been adequately explained. The reason 
which he himself afterward gave that his father's pinched 
circumstances made it impossible to remain longer is demon- 
strably untrue. The cause assigned by certain apologists that 
he had become involved in a student plot against the course of 
study prescribed by the college authorities is unsatisfactory. 
In the early part of 1861, when Benjamin, a Senator from 
Louisiana, was a leader of Secession and one of the Davis 
group that met in the Capitol at Washington to speed the 
Southern movement, especially to incite Southern states to 
seize all Federal property in their regions, a fellow alumnus 
of Benjamin's came forth with a more serious accusation. In 


every sentence of this publication the bitterness of the time 
stands revealed; it echoes, more eloquently than a thousand 
volumes, the emotions which the Southern separation, and 
its causes, aroused in the most respectable Northern breasts. 
For the journal in which this indictment first appeared was the 
New York Independent, one of the most widely read religious 
papers of the day, an organ of the Abolitionists, especially of 
Henry Ward Beecher. The article, entitled "The Early His 
tory of a Traitor," was signed in large type by D. Francis 
Bacon, Yale, 1831, a distinguished physician and a member of 
one of the most famous of Yale families. It was as follows : 
"The class of 1829 in Yale College (two years in advance 
of mine) was the finest body of young men that I ever saw in 
college. There was one of the class whose name cannot be found 
on the list of graduates, or in any annual catalogue after 1827. 
He was and still is a handsome little fellow, looking very small 
in his class, who, with few exceptions, were of full manly 
growth. This youth haled from a great state of 'the chivalrous 
sunny south,' bright-eyed, dark-complexioned, and 'ardent as a 
southern sun could make him.' In the early part of 1828 there 
was a mysterious trouble in that class. Watches, breast pins, 
seals, pencil-cases, pen-knives, jack-knives, two-bladed knives, 
four-bladed knives, etc. etc. etc. and lastly, sundry sums of 
money 'lying around loose 1 in students' rooms, disappeared un 
accountably. The losers looked gloomily at each other and 
suspiciously at others. Something must be done. They finally 
constituted themselves a volunteer 'detective force,' set their 
trap baited with thirty-five dollars in good bank notes 
and soon caught the thief. He confessed. On opening his trunk 
in his presence, they found it nearly full of missing valuables 
jewelry, pocket cutlery and horlogery enough to stock a 
Chatham Street store. He begged pitifully not to be exposed; 
they looked piteously on his handsome young face, and re 
lented at the thought of blasting his opening young life. He 
had been a universal favorite, a pet of his class; so they agreed 


not to inform either the city magistrates or the faculty of the 
University, but ordered him to 'clear out' at once and forever. 
He went instantly to good President Day, obtained a certificate 
of honorable dismissal and vanished. That little thief is now 
a senator in Congress, advocating and justifying and threaten 
ing the robbery of forts, and the stealing of the military hard 
ware and cutlery generally of the Federal government, without 
any more color or shadow of pretext than he had for his like 
operations on his fellow students just thirty-three years ago. 
A third of a century has not made and can never make, any 
change in such an originally born rascal. Had these early 
filchings been a mere boyish escapade, a momentary yielding 
to temptation while in great want, they would not deserve 
mention now; but they were systematised theft long con 
tinued, accumulated, and hoarded pilferings from trusted 
bosom friends. Had the fellow not at length reproduced his 
private morality in public life, I would have allowed the secret 
of these early crimes to remain in the hearts of the few who 
then knew and now remember it." 2 

The name of Benjamin did not appear, but the identifica 
tion was complete. Only one Senator in 1861 had been a 
member of the class of 1829 at Yale. The article went the 
rounds of the Northern press, which accepted it as completely 
explaining the moral nature of one of the most formidable 
enemies of the Union. The boldness of the accuser in signing 
his name, the high standing of the journal in which the story 
was published, seemed to be a direct challenge to a suit for 
libel. Under ordinary circumstances, a failure to defend one's 
reputation in this manner would be accepted as a confession of 
guilt. At the time this article appeared, however, such a pro 
cedure had become impossible. Four days after this so-called 
disclosure, the Confederate States came into existence in 
Montgomery; two months subsequently North and South 
were locked in war. Obviously it would not have been practi- 

2 The Independent, New York, January 31, 1861. 


cable for any Southerner, under such conditions, to have main 
tained an action in a Northern court. Benjamin, therefore, can 
not be criticized for not instituting legal proceedings. But 
his absolute silence under such charges is not so easily ex 
plained. Benjamin never gave the slightest public notice to 
this onslaught. His only comment appears in a letter to his 
close friend, Thomas F. Bayard of Delaware one of the 
few of his letters that have been preserved. The question of a 
libel suit, he relates, had been laid before Charles O'Connor, 
the distinguished New York lawyer, who had counseled against 
it. "I have determined/' says Benjamin, "to yield to the ad 
vice of my friends, and let a lifelong career of integrity and 
honor make silent and contemptuous answer to such an at 
tack." "I am decided in one conviction," 8 he wrote Bayard, 
in the same letter, "that it is not advisable to have any pub 
lication in any manner or form on the subject, whether from 
myself or friends." Mr. Bayard had written Benjamin soon 
after the article began its rounds of the Northern press 
advising him to make a public denial and offering to act 
as a medium of communication to the world. Benjamin's reply 
was a courteous refusal to take this means of vindication. 

All through life Benjamin evinced this lofty disregard of 
popular opinion; his disinclination to refute this imputation 
on his character as a young man may have been a splendid 
manifestation of the same haughty reserve. Yet this silence 
inevitably prejudices his case. This is particularly so because 
the explanation he privately gave Mr. Bayard of his departure 
from Yale, in this same letter, the records disprove. "I left 
Yale College in the fall of 1827," he wrote, "m consequence 
of my father's reverses rendering him unable to maintain me 
there any longer." 4 A letter written by Benjamin himself, 
January 14, 1828, now in the archives of Yale University, 
contradicts this statement. Financial difficulties did not prevent 

8 Judah P. Benjamin, by Pierce Butler, p. 30. 
4 The same> p. 29. 


the young man from finishing his course and obtaining a 
degree; Benjamin's own statement indicates that he was dis 
missed for reasons which the authorities regarded as dis 
creditable. This letter was first published in Memorials of 
Eminent Yale Men, by Anson Phelps Stokes, in 1914. 5 It was 
a plea from Benjamin, addressed to Jeremiah Day, then 
President of Yale College, begging for reinstatement. "Highly 
respected sir," it begins. "It is with shame and diffidence that 
I now address you to solicit your forgiveness and interference 
with the faculty in my behalf. And I beseech you, sir, not to 
attribute my improper conduct to any design or intentional 
violation of the laws of the college nor to suppose that I 
would be guilty of any premeditated disrespect to yourself or 
any member of the Faculty. And I think, sir, you will not 
consider it improper for me to express my hopes, that my 
previous conduct in college was such as will not render it too 
presumptuous in me to hope that it will make a favorable im 
pression upon yourself and the faculty. . . . Allow me, sir, 
here also to express my gratitude to the faculty for their kind 
indulgence to my father in regard to pecuniary affairs : and also 
to yourself and every individual member of the faculty for their 
attention and paternal care of me, during the time I had the 
honor to be a member of the Institution." 

Benjamin's petition fell on unresponsive ears. "There is no 
evidence," comments Dr. Stokes, "that President Day even 
presented the letter to the faculty." Yet in certain respects this 
communication only serves to mystify the problem. The reason 
for his dismissal which Benjamin here intimates some 
infraction of college discipline is certainly not the one that 
Dr. Bacon's article definitely asserts. If the young Benjamin's 
statement of the case is trustworthy, it would also seem that he 
left as a consequence of faculty action, not, as the Bacon charge 
declares, on the unofficial and secret demand of his fellow 
students. Of course, it is not impossible that both his classmates 

6 Vol. II, pp. 262-263. Dr. Stokes was Secretary of Yale University from 1899 to 1921, 


and the college authorities speeded the young man's departure. 
There are other contradictions in the several incomplete nar 
ratives of this expulsion for it virtually amounted to that 
but it is hardly worth while to enter into these minute details 
at this time. The real history of the incident has never been 
determined and probably never will be. The records of Yale, 
with the exception of the letter quoted above, provide no 
information. All that we can say with any definiteness, at this 
late day, is that Benjamin left Yale, not of his own volition, 
and not because of financial stringency; that his offense was so 
serious that the authorities declined to consider his request for 
a rehearing; that he himself misstated the reason for the 
separation; that the charge was made, in a responsible journal 
and by a college mate of standing, that he had been caught 
stealing from his fellow students; that Benjamin made no 
public denial of this charge; that all his life he showed a con 
stant apprehension of a biography and destroyed all papers 
and documents that would facilitate inquiries into his past. 
Perhaps an oversuspicious mind might detect some significance 
in the fact that, on leaving Yale, he did not settle in Charleston, 
the town in which he had spent his early years and which 
offered abundant opportunities for the profession which he 
had decided to adopt, but departed for the then distant city of 
New Orleans, and began life anew. Under the most favorable 
interpretation, Benjamin's start in life had been an unfortunate 
one, and it is understandable that, in making his serious attempt 
at fame and fortune, he should have broken away from his 
early environment. 


This Creole community was precisely the place in which a 
person of Benjamin's talents and tastes would find congenial 
surroundings. Like the young man himself, its atmosphere was 


exotic. In 1828, when Benjamin started his career there in a 
commercial office, it was a French city. The Gallic influence 
pervaded all phases of social and civic life. French was the 
language, not only of ordinary intercourse, but of business 
and the courts. Its legal system had been founded upon ancient 
French practice. Originally settled by French immigrants in 
the time of Louis XV, the customs, language, and legal prin 
ciples that had then prevailed still ruled this minute France 
beyond the seas. Benjamin soon identified himself with the 
place in all its phases. Presently entering the office of a New 
Orleans notary, he quickly qualified for admittance to the bar, 
and, in a few years, acquired a lucrative practice. He had 
enormous industry, genuine legal talent, a fascinating lucidity 
in the presentation of his subject, a clear-cut, mild-mannered, 
sincere eloquence, and, above all, an engaging person. He 
rapidly became the most sought-for commercial lawyer of 
New Orleans; but law did not confine his energies he was 
one of the first to experiment in the new agriculture that proved 
even more adapted than cotton to the soil of the swampy 
delta. In the early thirties natives looked skeptically upon 
those hardy adventurers, like Benjamin, who believed that the 
future of lower Louisiana lay in sugar growing. With the 
profits of his law business the ambitious young man purchased 
a plantation, Bellechasse, in the parish of Plaquemines, a few 
miles below New Orleans. Here in a fine old Creole mansion, 
with gardens and stately groves of oaks, life for Benjamin 
assumed new dignity. His father, a struggling Jewish shop 
keeper on a petty scale, had never attained that kind of property 
which spelled social success in the old South. But at Bellechasse 
the son became the proud possessor of slaves. With their labor 
he embarked on what was then almost an untried field, the 
growing of sugar cane. He succeeded from the start. So far- 
sighted was Benjamin in the equipment of his estate that most 
of the machinery and buildings he installed in the 1840's were 
being used as late as 1895. 


On the personal side Benjamin's life presents alternating 
lights and shadows. Nothing could be more charming than 
the story of his courtship and marriage. Arriving in New 
Orleans in 1828, with no friends and practically no money, 
the first handicap to success proved to be his unf amiliarity with 
the language. The sixteen-year-old boy found a romantic solu 
tion to this problem. Not only did Benjamin require French, 
but the natives of the town, in view of the influx of Americans, 
felt the need of English. So the beginning lawyer let it be known 
that he would hire out as a tutor in English to any family that 
would agree to teach him French. One wise Frenchman, seek 
ing such a mentor for his daughter, rejected the young man on 
sight. "He's so fascinating," he said, "that my girl would fall 
in love with him and run away before the month was out." 
One of the most substantial of the Creole society, Auguste 
St. Martin, decided to t?,ke the risk. This gentleman had been 
born in France, having reached New Orleans by way of Santo 
Domingo, in which island he had had many experiences with 
bloody negro uprisings. The name of the daughter whom he 
wished instructed in conversational English Natalie St. 
Martin was, Benjamin insisted, a poem in itself. Moreover, 
she was a girl of beauty, Intelligence, and charm. The young 
man spent many entrancing hours in her society, conveying to 
her the English he had acquired in Charleston and at Yale, 
while she in turn taught him the accents recently transported 
from France. The experience proved that the father who had 
balked at so engaging an instructor was right. A few months 
after being admitted to practice, in 1832, Benjamin married 
his pupil. Old Auguste St. Martin did not disfavor the hand 
some young Jew as a son-in-law. All signs indicate that he 
admired and liked Benjamin intensely, as did his son Jules. 
The sad fact is that the one member of the St. Martin family 
who grew dissatisfied with the marriage was the young lady 
who had so impetuously rushed into it. As mutual pedagogues 


in French and English the couple were a success ; as man and 
wife they were failures. 

This marriage presents another of those mysteries with 
which the life of Benjamin is so full. The obvious explanation 
of their unfitness for each other is the religious one. Natalie 
St. Martin was one of the most devout of Catholics; indeed, 
her chief personal interest in her husband seems to have been 
anxiety concerning his soul; she never abandoned hope of in 
corporating him in her faith; it was she who brought a priest to 
his deathbed and had extreme rites administered to the 
probably unconscious man; she saw that he was buried from a 
Catholic church and interred in a Catholic cemetery. But it is 
not likely that Benjamin's philosophic resistance to her lifelong 
efforts caused the difficulty. Differences in temperament prob 
ably explain this strange separation. Of Natalie, as of Judah 
Benjamin himself, there are virtually no literary remains. Only 
one sentence of hers survives, yet, in its unfoldment of her 
nature, it is worth volumes. In a moment of financial reverse, 
Benjamin, who scrupulously provided for his absent wife's 
support, had evidently written, suggesting a curbing of ex 
pense. "Don't talk to me about economy," she replied. "It is 
so fatiguing." That the lady possessed wit is apparent; in this 
epigram appear likewise the liking for languorous ease, the 
impatience with sordid details, the selfish disinclination to 
share burdens, that characterized the Louisiana Creole. And 
in this sentence we probably have the key to the failure of this 
ill-advised marriage. Natalie loved gayety, lively society, 
perpetual association with a multitude of friends. Bright- 
minded though she was, her husband's intellectual life did not 
afford the distraction her spirit craved. Benjamin, in his brief 
married career, maintained two homes, one in the city of New 
Orleans and one in the sugar country. Natalie was unhappy 
in both. The legal and political friends who gathered in the 
home on Bourbon Street, the constant discussion of State rights 


and slavery expansion bored this irrepressible French girl. 
Bellechasse, with its negroes, its tall fields of cane, its sugar re 
fineries, she found triste. One day, in the early forties, Natalie, 
with her little daughter, Ninette, the one surviving child of 
the marriage, crossed the ocean and took up her abode in 
Paris, the city to which she really belonged. Louisiana saw her 
no more. She lived to be an old lady, dying in 1891, but never 
returned to her American home. The daughter, five when she 
left the bayou country, grew up a complete French woman, 
marrying an officer in the French army, and living until 1898. 
But now begins the strangest part of this amazing marriage. 
Mrs. Benjamin played no role in her husband's public life, yet 
there was no quarrel between them, and really no separation. 
Benjamin maintained his wife and daughter in luxury for fifty 
years. In the last period of his career, when he became a leader 
of the English bar, he built Natalie and Ninette a beautiful 
home costing $80,000 on the Avenue d'Jena, almost im 
poverished himself by providing his daughter a handsome dot 
on her marriage, and then weary, ill with a mortal disease, 
spent his final year as a member of their household. Except 
for the four years of the Civil War, he made an annual sum 
mer pilgrimage to Paris, to visit his family and take care for 
their comfort. After becoming a resident of London, these 
visits became more frequent. Yet, though only the Channel 
separated man and wife, no effort was made to establish a 
common domicile. Existence did not lack even its tender 
moments. Once, when Mrs, Benjamin was on the verge of a 
serious operation, Judah crossed to Paris, took his post at her 
bedside, and held her hand all through the ordeaL On these 
surface facts, the marriage looks like one of unremitting de 
votion on his part, and callous, selfish indifference on the part 
of the wife ; yet it is doubtful whether Benjamin greatly grieved 
over the situation, or had any deep-seated love for the woman 
who treated him as a convenience and avoided matrimonial 
duty. His domestic affections were seated elsewhere. The man 


was a genuine Jew in his devotion to kin. His mother and sisters 
monopolized the warmer side of his being. As soon as Natalie 
left the Louisiana home, Benjamin sent for his oldest sister 
Rebecca, whom he called "Penny," and installed her as mistress. 
Tradition describes her as a woman of fine mentality; for 
years she performed well the part of hostess to the brother 
in whom her pride was unbounded. Unlike Natalie, Mrs. Levy 
did not find the Bellechasse plantation, or the city home in 
New Orleans, dull and forbidding: she extended unceasing 
hospitality to all his friends; and her children seem to have 
become part of Benjamin's existence more than that distant 
Parisienne who always addressed him as "mon pere." "Now 
I must bid you good bye, my darling," reads one of his war 
time letters to Rebecca, "with a thousand kisses for you and 
the dear little ones, and a thousand affectionate remembrances 
to Kitt, from one who loves you dearly, and need not sign his 
name." Even in those early days in London, after 1865, when 
Benjamin, studying for admission to the English bar, dined 
furtively in cheap restaurants on bread and cheese, and walked 
the London streets to economize on cab fare, he still managed 
to smuggle small sums across the Atlantic for the maintenance 
of his relatives, utterly ruined by the war. 


Probably any Southern statesman called upon to form a 
cabinet for the Confederacy would have assigned a place to 
Judah P. Benjamin. Louisiana, like the other "sovereign" 
members of the new Government, was entitled to "recognition." 
Its two foremost men, in 1861, were John Slidell and his 
fellow Senator from New Orleans. In intellectual power, legal 
knowledge, capacity for work, skill in manipulating men, and 
subtlety in gauging human motives, Slidell hardly approached 
his brainy colleague. Probably Benjamin's views on the 


Southern question more completely represented those prevail 
ing in Montgomery, in February, 1861, than those of any other 
member of the Davis Cabinet. From the earliest days Benjamin 
had championed the most extreme of Southern pretensions. 
Most Southerners who emphasized the property aspect of the 
negro rested their thesis upon the right of the state to fix his 
status by statute. Not so Benjamin. He insisted that slavery 
existed under the common law of the English people, and 
traced prevailing conditions back to English soil. The same 
English common law that vested ownership of the retainers 
in the lord in the days of King John guarded the rights of 
American slaveholders in 1856. In the formation of the Davis 
Cabinet this ultra attitude was a recommendation. Suspicion 
of "reconstructionists" of Southern leaders who still 
secretly yearned for reunion with the Federal Government 
was active in Montgomery. More than one member of the 
new Cabinet, even Davis himself, so the whisperings ran, still 
cherished a furtive fondness for the old flag. But no such 
doubt stained the reputation of Benjamin. If any evidence were 
needed his speech in the Senate on December 31, 1860, just on 
the eve of Secession, provided it. The defiance of his final 
sentences still rang through the Southern States. "The fortunes 
of war may be adverse to our arms," he concluded. "You may 
carry desolation into our peaceful land, and with torch and fire 
you may set our cities in flames . . . you may do all this 
and more too, if more there be but you can never subjugate 
us; you can never convert the free sons of the soil into vassals, 
paying tribute to your power; and you never, never can degrade 
them to the level of an inferior and servile race. Never I 
Never 1" 

When Benjamin hurled this defiance, he had reached the 
apex of his personal and political power. The pro-Confederate 
audience in the Senate, wildly applauding his sentiments, had 
before their eyes the most romantic, because most extraneous, 
figure in American public life. All through the two hours he 


was speaking, Benjamin maintained the characteristic pose 
that had been familiar to the upper chamber for nearly ten 
years. A short, stout figure some called it squat or "pudgy" 
immaculately dressed in black, unadorned except by a 
heavy watch chain with which his hands kept fingering; a 
round head, black hair, black silky beard; an oval, slightly 
puffy face which, if not handsome, was certainly fascinating 
and lightened by intelligence; a melodious voice seldom betray 
ing stress or excitement; eyes full of fire and penetration 
such was the unimpassioned statesman, who, standing imper- 
turbably between two desks, the voice seldom raised above a 
conversational temper, poured forth a biting discourse that, 
for its very gentleness and logic, enraged the North far more 
than the savage onslaughts of a Toombs or the tearful plead 
ings of a Davis. And this had been Benjamin's quality through 
out his whole public life. Though the South rates him as one 
of its finest orators, there was nothing Websterian about his 
manner. The roaring accents of a Yancey he despised. Every 
thing was quiet, stealthy in its attack, exasperatingly calm. 
Slidell once expressed his annoyance at Benjamin's "debonair" 
behavior. The same thing annoyed his Northern brethren on 
this occasion. Gentleness, courtesy, ingenuousness, even inno 
cence these were the qualities that Benjamin embodied, not 
only in this critical hour, but always. He never showed anger, 
excitement, or distraction, or, in fact, emotion of any kind. 
He was incarnated intellect and logic all set forth in in 
gratiating accents. Though one of the most industrious men 
who served the Confederacy, he was never in a hurry* For 
even casual and bothersome callers on his busiest days, this 
unruffled soul always had plenty of time. Benjamin's most 
emphasized physical traits expressed this equanimity of spirit. 
His voice and his smile those are the two things on which 
all commentators lay chief stress. "The birdlike, gentle per 
suasive tones of that oratorical siren," says one; "the sweet and 
beautifully modulated voice," records another; "high-pitched 


but articulate and resonant," to quote a third. The man's 
"perennial smile" similarly affected all beholders. Whether 
addressing judge or jury, speaking on the hustings or in the 
Senate, sitting quietly at his desk or walking along the street, 
this smile never departed; people even wondered whether 
Benjamin slept smiling. "There goes Mr. Benjamin, smiling 
as usual," was a common remark in Richmond, as the little 
Secretary of State passed on the way to his morning toil. Jones, 
the "rebel war diarist," insisted that this expression was not 
a smile at all, but a kind of permanent arrangement of muscles 
that gave it the semblance of one; Thomas F. Bayard, one of 
Benjamin's closest friends, insisted on calling it a "simper." 
But most found it inviting to friendly intercourse. 

Significantly women found his society entrancing. His wife 
may have thought him wearisome at times, but the ladies 
of the Confederacy did not. Mrs. Chestnut, that tart memorial 
ist of Southern statesmen, does not fix her barb in Benjamin. 
"Everything Mr. Benjamin said we listened to, bore in mind 
and gave heed to it diligently. He is a Delphic oracle of the 
innermost shrine, and is supposed to enjoy the honor of Mr. 
Davis' unreserved confidence." 6 Mrs. Burton Harrison, who, 
as Constance Gary, was one of the belles of Richmond, de 
lighted in "the silver-tongued secretary of state," as she calls 
him. Nothing could surpass u his charming stories, his dramatic 
recitations of scraps of verse, and clever comments on men, 
women and books." 7 With Mrs. Davis, Benjamin was a favor 
ite. No man was more welcome to her tea table. "Do come 
to dinner or tea this afternoon," she would write, <c we suc 
ceeded in running the blockade this week," meaning that she 
now could serve him real tea or coffee. 8 Men sometimes treated 
him more harshly. Henry S. Foote who, with all his genius, 
was considerable of a blatherskite denounced him in the 
Confederate Senate as "Judas Iscariot Benjamin"; the wittier 

6 A Diary from Dixie, p. 278. 

7 Re 'collections , Grave and Gay, pp. 129, 160. 

8 Pierce Butler: Judah P. Benjamin, p. 335. 


Ben Wade, of Ohio, called him "an Israelite with Egyptian 
principles." This was evidently intended as a thrust at a man 
who, despite the historic experiences of his own race in cap 
tivity, could be an apologist and practitioner of slavery, 

Benjamin was educated beyond most of his time; he was 
well read in general literature sometimes interrupting a 
legal discourse in Congress to eulogize Tennyson; he not only 
spoke fluently French and Spanish but was deeply versed in 
French and Spanish law. He once left Washington on what 
was regarded as a mysterious errand; its real purpose was 
to make an argument, in Spanish, before the Supreme Court 
in Ecuador. President Pierce esteemed his judicial qualities 
highly enough to offer him a place on the United States Su 
preme Court; President Buchanan sufficiently regarded his 
diplomatic talents as to offer him the Ministership to Spain. 
Benjamin's passion for the law, as well as his fondness for the 
work of Senator, made him decline approaches of the sort. 
In law, indeed, he was a man of great learning. His Digest 
of Louisiana Supreme Court decisions, prepared in associa 
tion with Thomas Slidell, is still indispensable; while Benjamin 
on "Sales" became a classic in England and America on the 
day of its appearance, and largely explained his sudden rise at 
the English bar. Perhaps the quality that most surprises in 
this bland, placid jurist and statesman was his unremitting 
industry. It comes almost as a shock in a man so devoted to the 
elegancies of life. He always had leisure for a card game, he 
loved the table, being a good deal of a gourmet, but hard work 
he seemed to prefer above everything. "I like to bask in the 
sun, like a lizard," Benjamin would say, but his associates told 
a different story. "His power of work was amazing to me," 
said General Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, "and he appeared as 
fresh at twelve o'clock at night, after a hard day's work, as 
he had been at nine o'clock in the morning." 

Whether or not Benjamin merits his fame as "brains of the 
Confederacy" he certainly was the most subtle intellect in the 


Cabinet. He enjoys another distinction: he was the closest of 
all Southern leaders to the President, the only one of his offi 
cial family, indeed, to whom that reticent statesman seemed 
personally drawn. Davis, it is true, says little about him in his 
Rise and FalL The most interesting statesman of the Confed 
eracy elicits only the formal notice impartially bestowed on his 
colleagues. u Mr. Benjamin, of Louisiana, had a very high 
reputation as a lawyer, and my acquaintance with him in the 
Senate had impressed me with the lucidity of his intellect, his 
systematic habits and capacity for labor. He was therefore 
invited to the post of Attorney General." 9 The ten large vol 
umes of Davis papers add little to this perfunctory tribute. 
The fact is that, before their association in the Confederacy, 
the relations between Davis and Benjamin had not been inti 
mate, at times not even sympathetic. Once, in the Senate, Davis, 
affected by one of his spells of irritation, spoke insultingly to 
the Louisianan; at least, Benjamin so regarded his remark. 
The Senator from Mississippi described a paragraph of the 
Senator from Louisiana as "an attempt to misrepresent a 
very plain remark." That was a parliamentary way of calling 
his colleague a liar. Benjamin was not a proud "Baron" from 
Virginia, but he accepted this challenge in the spirit of Randolph 
of Roanoke. He scribbled a few words at his desk, handed 
the paper to a friend, with a request for its immediate deliv 
ery to Davis. The Mississippian's response forms one of the 
finest episodes in his career. "I will make this all right at 
once," he said to Benjamin's second. "I have been wholly 
wrong." Not only did he reenter the Senate and apologize 
in full view of that body to Benjamin, but confessed to the 
infirmities of temper that had caused him to make his unjusti 
fied criticism. "I cannot gainsay," he said, "that my manner 
implied more than my heart meant." He expressed regret that 
his behavior was "sometimes unfortunate, and is sometimes, as 
my best friends have told me, of a character which would nat- 

9 Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government) Vol. I, p. 242. 


urally impress that I intended to be dogmatic and dictatorial. 
. . . When I am matched by one as skillful, as acute by nature, 
and as trained by his profession, as the Senator from Louisi 
ana, it is but natural that I should appear to have been the 
hasty man in the debate, whilst he must have the advantage 
resulting in that skill which his training gives." 10 

And so the incident that at first threatened bloodshed ended 
in a love feast. Benjamin accepted the disclaimer with all due 
suavity; he would be glad to forget all the honorable gentle 
man's remarks in the debate, he said, u except the pleasant pas 
sage of this morning." That Benjamin's quick resentment in 
creased the Mississippian's respect for the u little man from 
Louisiana," as he called him, was natural; Davis admired cour 
age, and a refusal to sit quiet under insult, even though he was 
himself the transgressor. Another conflict between the two 
men took place afterward, this time on a question of policy. 
Davis's heart, as already noted, was set on a transpacific rail 
road, from Memphis to San Francisco. Benjamin's darling 
scheme was to connect California with the South by means 
of a railroad, or canal, across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec; its 
terminus would be New Orleans. Davis proposed to have the 
Federal Government finance his enterprise to the extent of 
$100,000,000, while Benjamin's railroad was to be built by 
private capitalists. In the debate Benjamin pointed out the 
inconsistency of a State's-right Democrat proposing to dip into 
the Federal treasury for a grandiose "public improvement" 
on this scale, and did so with fine sarcasm and irrefutable logic. 
This difference, however, did not result in ill-feeling. But 
before 1861 there had been no intimacy between the two men. 
"Mr. Benjamin and Mr. Davis had had," says Mrs. Davis, 
"little social intercourse; an occasional invitation to dinner 
was accepted and exchanged, but that was all." 

Benjamin had not long been a member of the Davis Cabinet, 
however, before the President and his secretary were drawn 

10 Congressional Globe, June 9, 1858, p. 2823. 


closer together. Nor is this strange. What the President needed 
in his loneliness was some person of superior mind and judg 
ment, of equable, sympathetic temper, to whom he could turn 
for assistance and advice; above all, one who knew his fail 
ings of temper and physical state, who, though he might at 
times differ with him, would never do so in a way to rasp 
his nerves, and who would not sulk if his recommendations 
were ignored. A man who was always affable and smiling, 
who never became discouraged when difficulties grew thickest, 
who always saw the bright side of things, and yet at the same 
time was not a vacuous optimist, but had his eyes on realities, 
and usually had in readiness some definite practical suggestion 
this was the companion that Davis needed. Benjamin was 
also expert in handling another problem that irked the soul 
of the President. No man could more urbanely dispose of the 
army of office-seekers and commission hunters who abounded 
as numerously in the Confederate capital as in Washington. 
Thus early Davis began to turn to this associate in all criti 
cal moments. Benjamiri was "personally devoted to Mr. 
Davis," records H. A. Washington, the Assistant Secretary 
of State, "and probably had more influence with him than any 
other man." Mrs. Davis says the same thing, in a vivid pas 
sage, which shows that not only Benjamin's intellect but his 
placidity of disposition made him a never-failing solace to her 
husband. Not only his political advice but his soothing nature 
came as balm to the dyspeptic and neurotic head of the Con 
federacy. "It was a curious spectacle," she writes, "the steady 
approximation to a thorough friendliness of the President and 
his war minister. It was a very gradual rapprochement, but 
all the more solid for that reason. . . . Mr. Benjamin was 
always ready for work; sometimes, with half an hour's recess, 
he remained with the executive from ten in the morning until 
nine at night and together they traversed all the difficulties 
which encompassed our beleaguered land. . . . Both the Pres 
ident and the Secretary of State worked like galley slaves, 


early and late. Mr. Davis came home fasting, a mere mass of 
throbbing nerves, perfectly exhausted; but Mr. Benjamin was 
always fresh and buoyant. There was one striking peculiarity 
about his temperament. No matter what disaster befell our 
arms, after he had done all in his power to'prevent or rectify 
it, he was never depressed." n 

Others, of course, attributed this influence to Benjamin's 
"sinister" side. Elaine's "Mephistopheles" conception of the 
Secretary reigned in certain quarters in Richmond. The diarist 
J. B. Jones, Chief Clerk in the War Department, is particularly 
insidious on this point. "Mr. Benjamin is a frequent visitor to 
the department and is very sociable; some intimations have 
been thrown out that he aspires to become, some day, Secre 
tary of War. Mr. Benjamin unquestionably will have great 
influence with the President, for he has studied his character 
most carefully. He will be familiar not only with his 'likes,' 
but with his 'dislikes.' " The extent to which Benjamin was 
making his own the most persistent of the Presidential animosi 
ties the diarist gleefully records. Already the Davis-Beauregard 
feud had embarked on its unhappy course. Benjamin loyally 
championed Davis in this dispute, as he championed him in a 
similar controversy with Joseph E. Johnston. Beauregard's 
prominence as a candidate for the Presidency did not improve 
relations between that general and his chief. "There is a whis 
per," Jones records on August 11, "that something like a 
rupture has occurred between the President and Gen. Beaure- 
gard; and I am amazed to learn that Mr. Benjamin is inimical 
to Gen. B." And later: "Mr. Benjamin's quarrel with Beaure- 
gard is openly avowed, Mr. Benjamin spoke to me about it 
to-day and convinced me at the time that Gen. B. was really in 
the wrong." In the wrong, that is, as to his responsibility for 
the 'failure to pursue the Federal armies and capture Wash 
ington! Whether or not the influence which Benjamin ac 
quired with Davis can be explained by such sycophancy as this 

11 Quoted by Pierce Butler m his Jvdah P. Benjamin, p. 32. 


biased writer intimates, there seems to be little doubt that 
soon after entering the official family Benjamin became the 
Presidential favorite. The executive who was distant with most 
of his constitutional advisers immediately felt an affinity for 
his erstwhile "little man from Louisiana." 

The first Cabinet was, in fact, an ineffective lot. Toombs's 
mishandling of foreign affairs has already been described. 
The War Secretary, Leroy P. Walker, was a failure from the 
start. Mr. Walker was a typical Southern gentleman on 
that word "gentleman" he was inclined to lay more emphasis 
than was customary even in the South. He had been advanced 
to this commanding duty, as had all his colleagues, not on the 
ground of fitness, but because he was regionally acceptable. 
He represented Alabama in the Cabinet, just as Memminger 
represented South Carolina and Mallory Florida. He had one 
desirable attribute: he was full of fire for the cause. The Con- 
federacy enrolled no more pious adherent of slavery and State 
rights. As Secretary, however, he seemed more absorbed in 
dignity, ceremonial honor, punctiliousness, than in the organ 
ization of an army. "That slow coach, the Secretary of War," 
Mrs. Chestnut calls him. In early July the prayer arose in 
Richmond for a Southern "Napoleon." "Not one bit of usel" 
this lady notes in her Diary. "If Heaven sent one, Walker 
would not give him a commission." William H. Russell of the 
London Times devotes a few lines to this unimpressive states 
man. Unfortunately the gentleman was addicted to a habit 
exceedingly distasteful to the fastidious Briton the absence 
of which in Jefferson Davis he regards as especially praise 
worthy. "Mr. Walker is the kind of man generally represented 
in our types of a 'Yankee' tall, lean, straight-haired, angu 
lar, with fiery, impulsive eyes and manner a ruminator of 
tobacco and a profuse spitter a lawyer, I believe, certainly 
not a soldier; ardent, devoted to the cause, and confident to 
the last degree of its speedy success." This overweening faith 
in a quick triumph, indeed, is the one thing for which Walker 


is remembered; the only remnant of a Walker biography that 
survives is his prophecy that soon the Confederate flag would 
be waving over Fanueil Hall, Boston. Diarist Jones, his chief 
clerk and office companion, is almost more contemptuous of 
Walker than of Benjamin. The secretary was almost continu 
ously ill. When sufficiently well to attend to business, he was 
constantly fretting over the constant mountain of mail, most 
of it from politicians seeking commissions. A single eccen 
tricity discloses his talents as an executive : he disliked writing 
brief replies to his correspondents, and would sign no letter, 
even though the subject was perfunctory, of less than three 
or four pages. 

Naturally such a spirit soon found himself at sea in the details 
of his department. ^Davis immediately lost respect for him as 
a cabinet minister and continuously ignored his existence. In 
one respect Walker was more unlucky than his colleagues. 
Davis had served as Secretary of War under Pierce; he well 
understood the routine of such an office, and appreciated 
Walker's incapacity from the first. Moreover, as something 
of a militarist in his own right, this was the department in 
which the President's interest was most keen and over which 
he kept the closest watch. Naturally the futility with which 
it was being conducted alarmed and irritated the chief of state 
an attitude which he made little effort to conceal. It did not 
require a person of Benjamin's shrewdness to anticipate an 
early vacancy in this branch of the Government. That he hoped 
from the first to step into Walker's shoes is not an unwar 
ranted assumption. Those who properly interpreted the in 
creasing intimacy between the Attorney General and his chief 
were already appointing him to the office. What a waste of 
good material! Here was the ablest member of the Cabinet 
assigned to a post in which there was practically nothing to 
do ! And here was almost the weakest placed in a post that, at 
the present moment, called for the greatest abilities. 

The extent to which Benjamin had advanced in royal favor 


came to the front on that glorious day in Confederate history 
July 21, the day of Bull Run. The whole Cabinet, and as 
much of the populace as could squeeze in, gathered in Walker's 
headquarters on this hot Sunday. Another centre of excitement 
was the Spottswood Hotel, Richmond's leading hostelry and 
the abode of the upper caste of Confederate society. Here 
President Davis and his family had their temporary home 
waiting until the new "White House" could be prepared for 
their reception. Here lived James Chestnut and his wife, 
Colonel Wigfall of Texas, Secretary and Mrs. Toombs, Sec 
retary and Mrs. Mallory, and other leaders of society and 
public affairs. Most of the husbands had already left for the 
approaching battle; the rumble of the guns had for several 
days startled the citizenry. President Davis had just departed 
for Manassas to devote his military talents, if necessary, to 
what was expected to be a decisive campaign. Mrs. Davis was 
the centre of all interest to this exclusive company. She was 
really the headquarters for news, for it was known that the 
President was in communication with his wife by telegram. 
At the War Department Secretary Walker was cursing the for 
tune which kept him prisoner in a civilian office, thus depriving 
him of the chance of winning glory in battle; Hunter, the 
recently appointed Secretary of State, was scanning attentively 
the messages as they came in, but making no comments ; Howell 
Cobb, President of Congress, not too pleased with uncertain, 
contradictory news, offended patriotic friends by declaring 
that the battle was evidently a drawn one. Benjamin was pres 
ent, most unperturbed of all, but perhaps also the most 

In the midst of the disturbance Benjamin slipped out of the 
room and started toward the Spottswood Hotel. Here he 
sought out Mrs. Davis who, telegram in hand, was surrounded 
by a crowd of jubilant women. She handed the paper to 
Benjamin, who read it and rushed back to his colleagues. His 
message brought the news that ended all argument. "We have 


gained a glorious but dear-bought victory," so ran the 
President's brief telegram to his wife, which Benjamin now 
relayed to the crowd. "Night closed upon the enemy in full 
flight and closely pursued." The last two words, as events dis 
closed, were inaccurate. Their appearance in the President's 
brief telegram in itself gives some notion of the confusion 
that followed the engagement. But the one overwhelming fact 
was true the Southern army had met the Federals and had 
not only defeated, but routed them. The reporters, having 
taken down from Benjamin's dictation this, the first authentic 
report of the result, rushed off to their newspapers, which, 
next morning, broke out into paeans of exultation. In the minds 
of Benjamin's little audience, as well as in that of the Southern 
people in general, that laconic despatch meant the end of the 
war and the permanent establishment of the Confederate 
Republic. Beauregard, it was taken for granted, was at the 
moment pursuing the Federal troops to Washington. The 
Confederate flag would in a day or two be waving over the 
Federal capitol! For once even Benjamin's composure forsook 
him. "Joy ruled the hour I" writes Diarist Jones. "The city 
seemed lifted up and everyone appeared to walk on air. 
Mr. Hunter's face grew shorter; Mr. Reagan's eyes subsided 
into their natural size, and Mr. Benjamin's glowed something 
like Daniel Webster's after taking a pint of brandy*" 


Bull Run, however, brought no glory to the man who, above 
all, would seem to have some claim to sharing in it the 
Secretary of War. In the general acclaim the head of the War 
Department was more than ever neglected. Indeed, the very 
triumph itself further discredited that incumbent. The South 
had won a smashing victory, but from it had reaped no military 
advantage. Soon everybody civilians, politicians, and mill- 


tary men was discussing the all-absorbing topic : Why had 
the Confederates not pursued the fleeing Federals, assailed the 
city of Washington, and captured the Northern capital ? Did 
not the road lie open for them? Little mystery to-day en 
shrouds this point. The army so hastily assembled by the 
South was as much of a mob as that which had been scrambled 
together by McDowell. Obviously, it could not follow up its 
success when there were food supplies for only a day or two, 
and when in all the materiel for formidable war-making it was 
terribly deficient. Not the lack of military valor and general 
ship forced the Confederates to withdraw to their camps, but 
the lack of military organization. For this defect, inevitably, 
the War Department itself was held responsible. It is doubtful 
whether an abler man than Walker could have properly 
equipped and organized an army in that brief time, but 
naturally popular fury, as well as executive disapproval, 
focused on the poor man's head. In September his resignation 
was promptly accepted and Judah P. Benjamin was elevated 
to the vacant post. "Just as I expected," notes Jones. "Mr. 
Benjamin is to be Mr. Walker's successor." "Mr. Benjamin's 
hitherto perennial smile faded almost away as he realized the 
fact that he was now the most important member of the 

Benjamin filled his arduous post for seven months, until 
March, 1 862. His career in that office was hardly more glorious 
than Walker's. The army itself disliked him because he was a 
civilian; politicians and newspapers turned fiercely upon him 
for the most logical of reasons : he headed the War Depart 
ment at a time of humiliation for Confederate arms. In such 
misfortunes the public always requires a scapegoat and this 
distant, always smiling, nonchalant Jewish Secretary most 
acceptably filled the role. The South's spectacular success at 
Manassas has obscured the historic sequence of the next few 
months. A popular impression still prevails that for the first 
year of the war, Southern arms were generally victorious. 


The opposite is the truth. Despite the wild retreat of Federal 
troops into Washington after Bull Run, the Federal army 
piled up far more victories to its credit in the first twelvemonth 
than did its opponent. Even more important, its victories had 
a quality of military substance that was lacking in those 
achieved by the South. The Davis policy, at the beginning, was 
defensive ; the cries of men like Toombs for an invasion of the 
North, and the capture of Washington, Philadelphia, even 
New York, were ignored; Southern strategy was not to win 
the war by decisive, offensive measures, but to prevent the 
enemy from accomplishing its purpose. This it did brilliantly 
on several occasions, but these successes had no particular 
military effect. The Northern soldiers might be thrown back, 
but they came on again in greater numbers than before. In the 
first year, however, the Federal Government made progress 
in its military objectives. Its grand plan was gradually to seize 
Southern territory and Southern cities, and reduce these areas 
to Federal control. This plan steadily advanced during 1861 
and the spring of 1862; the tragic year for the North, in a 
military sense, was the last half of 1862 the Peninsular 
campaign and the early part of 1863. 

For all the period that Benjamin filled his new office, the 
Federal forces seemed to be succeeding in their task of crushing 
the South. Three great border states, Maryland, Kentucky, 
Mi$souri, which Davis confidently expected would join the Con 
federacy, Lincoln's statesmanship and the Northern armies 
kept in the Union. McClellan's brilliant campaigns in the 
western part of Virginia redeemed this great area for the 
Federal Union and resulted in the creation of a new state, 
famous for its loyalty to the Washington government. Grant's 
campaigns in the West Fort Henry, Donelson, Shiloh, and 
the rest cleared all the Southern armies out of Kentucky 
and western Tennessee, and did much toward opening the 
Mississippi River to the north and splitting the Confederate 
country into two parts, inaccessible to each other. Along the 


coasts of Virginia and North and South Carolina the mixed 
military and naval Federal forces won a succession of victories 
that contributed further to the Confederacy's isolation from 
the sea. Burnside's capture of Roanoke Island off the coast of 
North Carolina gave the North dominance in the waters of 
that region and led to the capture of New Bern and adjacent 
territory. Finally came the greatest blow of all, the capture 
of the Confederacy's largest and richest city, New Orleans, 
which had the vast military importance of all but completing 
Federal control of the Mississippi, the very life artery of the 
South. Only by reading the Southern diaries of that time can 
the full significance of these disasters be understood. Even 
the most strong-hearted thought that this doomed the Southern 
States. "Down to the very depths of despair are we," records 
Mrs. Chestnut, when news came that Farragut had passed the 
forts of New Orleans. u New Orleans gone and with it the 
Confederacy! That Mississippi ruins us if lost. The Con^ 
federacy has been done to death by the politicians." 

That last sentence succinctly gives the reasons for Benjamin's 
downfall as Secretary of War. Probably any man who had been 
Secretary of War at this time would have suffered the same 
fate. During the period of most of these disasters he was the 
head of the department that should, in popular estimation, have 
made them impossible. Therefore curbstone orators and press 
turned ferociously against him. And Congress also, full of 
his enemies, placed the blame upon his shoulders. The im 
mediate cause of the onslaught was Burnside's capture of 
Roanoke Island. That important place had fallen, it was 
asserted, because of its failure to receive ammunition. Who 
was responsible for this failure? A Congressional committee 
investigated this lapse and definitely fixed the blame. "The 
committee, from the testimony, are constrained to report that 
whatever of blame and responsibility is justly attributable to 
any one for the defeat of our troops at Roanoke on February 8, 
1862, should attach to Major-General Benjamin Huger and 
the late Secretary of War, Judah P. Benjamin." 


Benjamin was "late" Secretary because, a few days before 
this report appeared, President Davis had transferred his 
favorite from the War to the State Department. Davis dis 
played certain qualities that were subsequently marked in 
Woodrow Wilson. One of these was loyalty to his chosen ap 
pointees. Perhaps vanity has something to do with this fidelity. 
To discredit a Cabinet member would obviously be a criticism 
of the President's own judgment; the surest way to cement the 
Presidential devotion to such a man was intemperate criticism. 
But there was another reason why Davis stood firmly by 
Benjamin in this crisis. This was his sense of justice. He knew 
something of which the public was unaware why Ben 
jamin had not sent powder and other munitions to Roanoke. 
That was because he had none to send. The Confederate store 
houses were empty. Unfortunately this was a circumstance 
that, at the time, could not be publicly avowed. Such a dis 
closure would have injured the already lowered morale of the 
South and strengthened that of the North. Davis therefore 
saw something commendable, if not indeed heroic, in Ben 
jamin's refusal to defend himself when his only possible defense 
would reveal a situation dangerous to the country. Probably 
this explanation, had it been publicly given, would not have 
satisfied critics in that depressing moment. Was it not the 
business of the War Secretary always to have supplies of 
munitions on hand? If he could not send materials of war to 
the protection of Roanoke and this indeed would have been 
a valid criticism should Benjamin not have withdrawn the 
troops from such an indefensible post and thus have prevented 
their capture ? 

But Davis for some time had had different plans for his 
favorite Cabinet member. From the beginning the State De 
partment had posed a serious problem. The career of the 
brilliant but erratic Toombs in that post ended July 21, 1861. 
His successor, Robert M. T. Hunter, of Virginia, brought to 
the office a man who had served alongside Davis in the United 
States Senate, representing, for the most part, the Davis jdeas 


on national questions, and who, in 1860, had been Virginia's 
favorite son for the Presidency of the United States. Toombs's 
retirement gave Davis the chance of "recognizing" Virginia 
in his Cabinet, and for this purpose no one seemed so fitting as 
Mr. Hunter. Not that he was a statesman of genius; in fact, 
he was a person of lumbering temperament and not too 
energetic mental processes; but he belonged to the "old 
Virginia aristocracy," was a man of great wealth, orthodox 
in his Southern principles, impressive in person, and respectable 
in character. In the celebrated gathering of "conspirators" in 
the Washington Capitol, January 5, 1861, Hunter was at first 
marked out for the Presidency of the impending Confederacy, 
the expectation at that time evidently being that Virginia would 
at once join the Secession movement. That Davis should have 
selected this high-standing Virginian for Secretary of State on 
Toombs's departure seemed inevitable. Hunter's social and 
political status in pre-Confederacy days perhaps explain the 
brevity of his tenure. He really was a Southern "aristocrat," 
Davis was not. Difficulties political and personal soon arose 
between the two men. As a Southern character this Virginian 
rated himself considerably above the Mississippian who was 
officially his superior. He insisted on actually being Secretary 
of State, "not the clerk of Mr. Davis," as he himself told his 
friends. Bad feeling reached a climax one day when Hunter, 
in a general Cabinet discussion of the military situation, ven 
tured to utter a few words on that subject. "Mr. Hunter," 
Davis replied, "you are Secretary of State, and when informa 
tion is wished of that department it will be time for you to 
speak." M 

The next day Hunter's resignation dropped on the Presi 
dent's desk. It was probably not an unwelcome missive. It 
enabled Davis to solve his Benjamin problem among other 
things. He deferred to popular anger to the extent of easing 
Benjamin from the War Department, but still retained him 

12 Edward A. Pollard relates the episode in his Jefferson Davis, p. 151. 


in the Cabinet and in a position that was rapidly assuming 
far-flung importance. This new department for Benjamin 
the third he filled in four years of war was the one for 
which he had real qualifications. The Southern public was 
quite content when a man of such subtle intellect and diplo 
matic temper took up this office at its most critical period. In 
that sphere Benjamin and his perpetual smile might find 
themselves at home. 




LIKE Benjamin, the Secretary of the Treasury, Christopher 
Gustavus Memminger, was foreign-born. Like Benjamin also, 
he suffered suspicion and revilement at times for his European 
origin. One of his recommendations for the career of states 
man was more highly esteemed in the Noith than in the South. 
Memminger' s origin was extremely humble. The difference in 
the way the two sections regarded such a beginning appears 
in an anecdote related by Dr. John Joseph Craven, the Federal 
army doctor who attended Jefferson Davis in his prison cell 
in Fortress Monroe. One day the two men began discussing 
Memminger and Confederate finance. "I asked," records Dr. 
Craven, "how Mr. Memminger had obtained prominence in 
so aristocratic a state as South Carolina, the report being that 
he was a foundling, born with little claim to either wealth or 
fame. Mr. Davis said he knew nothing of the matter, and im 
mediately turned away the conversation, appearing dis 
pleased." 1 

Memminger's father was a casualty of the Napoleonic 
wars ; he served the Prince Elector of Wiirttemberg as quarter 
master in the battalion of foot jagers stationed at Heilbronn, 
twenty miles from Naylingen. In this latter town the future 
Confederate statesman was born, January 9, 1803. His father 
was killed a month afterward, leaving the young widow in 
distress. Struggling for a time against unfavorable circum 
stances, she left Germany with her father, mother, and infant, 
landing at Charleston, after a long, arduous voyage. In 1808 
she, too, succumbed, and the five-year-old boy became the 

1 The Prison Life of Jefferson Davis, by John J. Craven, p. 159 (edition 1905). 

Courtesy of the New York Historical Society, New York City 






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care of her father and mother. No details are forthcoming 
concerning these grandparents ; all that is known is that they 
entered the child in a Charleston orphanage, departed for 
Philadelphia, and never saw him again. The story reads like 
a rather callous one; it is that of a parentless, poverty-stricken, 
friendless, and neglected child. The experience, however, ap 
parently left no bitterness; Memminger, as a successful 
Charleston lawyer, became a trustee of the institution in which 
he had been reared, and devoted a large part of his time to 
works intended to improve the condition of children. If his 
early life left any scar at all, it was in making Memminger 
an exceedingly serious, industrious man, with almost no lighter 
side to his nature, no humor, no talent for the relaxations that 
made existence so tolerable to a Benjamin or a Toombs. His 
mind also lacked the brilliancy of the first and the penetration 
of the other. Education, law, finance, above all religion, had 
exclusively occupied Memminger's days. As child, boy, and 
man the church provided abundant consolation. Abstruse 
theology and ecclesiastical history claimed most of the man's 
spare time. Charlestonians, informed, in 1861, that Mem 
minger had acceded to the Treasury, recalled not so much the 
able lawyer and advocate of Southern rights as the familiar 
gray-haired, slightly bent figure, browsing in secondhand book 
stores, seeking out ancient shabby tomes that dealt with the 
doctrinal mysteries of the Christian church. Memminger dis 
played a precocious mind from the first, entering the University 
of South Carolina at eleven and graduating at fourteen, second 
in his class, and this taste for theology, as well as others 
similarly recondite, marked him at an early age. 

The precocious boy had attracted the attention of a trustee 
of the orphanage, Thomas Bennett, who took him into his 
own home and provided for his education. In a few years 
Memminger attained distinction at the Charleston bar, spe 
cializing in commerce and finance. And that, in the Charleston 
law courts, was the day of legal giants, John C Calhoun, 


James Hamilton, Robert Young Hayne, Langdon Cheeves, 
and William Drayton. Memminger never quite ranked with 
these figures, but he was an advocate of sound learning, lucid 
forensic skill, and tested integrity, a man who commanded 
universal respect and attracted a most substantial clientele. 
On one occasion Memminger did rise to a height that even 
these celebrated jurists seldom scaled. This was the "Bank 
case," as it was known then, and is known in South Carolina 
history. The issue involved was the one known to-day as 
"sound money." The Bank of South Carolina, disregarding 
the state law, had suspended specie payments and was re 
deeming its notes only in paper money. The state instituted 
suit to vacate its charter, engaging Memminger as counsel. 
The case, which absorbed public attention for several months, 
had the most momentous effect upon the financial policy of 
the state. For Memminger won, and won gloriously; as a 
result, from that date until the Civil War, South Carolina en 
joyed a national fame for the honesty of its banks and the 
soundness of its standing in matters of finance. Lord Morpeth, 
afterward the Earl of Carlisle, a visitor in South Carolina 
at the time, constantly attended the Memminger pleadings. He 
pronounced the argument the finest he had ever heard in a 
court of law. "In his forcible style of delivery and directness 
of method, he compared Mr. Memminger to Sir Robert 
Peel. 11 2 The case made the South Carolinian's reputation as 
a lawyer and opened new possibilities for him in public life. 

Yet he was a public man in a restricted sense. Gustavus 
Memminger played only a minor part on the national stage. 
First and last he was a Carolinian. He never served in Con 
gress or the Senate and never held office under the Federal 
Government. He was a parochial statesman, a man who gave 
his best efforts to his locality. Alderman in Charleston, mem 
ber of the Board of Education, delegate to the Assembly for 
twenty years such were the restricted arenas in which he 

2 Quoted by 'Henry D. Capers, Life of Memminger. 


fulfilled the role of useful citizen. So far as he showed in 
terest in the great question of the day, it was on the liberal side. 
But Memminger was not one of the great statesmen o.f the 
decade preceding 1860. He possessed no strong appeal for 
the populace. Stern, matter-of-fact, rigidly Germanic in devo 
tion to detail and statistics, undistinguished in appearance, his 
name had hardly extended beyond South Carolina when he 
entered the Davis Cabinet. His one departure on a larger scene 
came in 1860; in that year he went to the Virginia Legislature 
as a delegate from South Carolina. The purpose was to 
persuade Virginia to join In the Secession campaign of South 
Carolina. He was not exactly the man for that job. His 
nature lacked passion and his oratory in Richmond left the 
Old Dominion cold; that commonwealth, in January, 1860, 
was still a good Union state. From now on Memminger grew 
steadily in favor of withdrawal from the Union, though his 
previous attitude still made him a person suspect in strong 
Secession quarters. He took a leading position as member of 
the South Carolina Convention. For this he wrote a majority 
report, so much of which was copied in the Ordinance of 
Secession that he is sometimes called the author of that historic 

He went as a delegate to the Montgomery Convention and 
here served as chairman of the Committee that drew up the 
provisional Constitution. Despite all this, his appointment as 
Secretary of the Treasury was not widely applauded. In par 
ticular it infuriated R. B. Rhett and his following. For years 
Memminger had fought that firebrand and his secession plans. 
As the life-long advocate of the Southern Confederacy which 
had now come to life, Rhett believed that he was entitled to 
such "recognition" in the new Government as might be par 
celed out to South Carolina. He thought himself entitled even 
to the Presidency; since that had gone elsewhere, however, 
he was willing to become Secretary of State or representative 
to Great Britain r for Rhett fancied himself as having a real 


talent for foreign affairs. But Davis, with that icy disdain 
which was one of his conspicuous and, at times such as this, 
not unattractive qualities ignored all Rhett's ambitions. 
For the favored son of South Carolina he chose Robert Barn- 
welL Since Toombs had been marked out for the Treasury, 
Barnwell was offered the Department of State. His declina 
tion of the "premiership" upset the whole programme. Barn- 
well, stepping aside, called Davis's attention to Memminger. 
He described the German's fine record in banking, and pro 
posed him for South Carolina's representative in the Cabinet 
as Secretary of the Treasury. Davis accepted the suggestion, 
and transferred Toombs to the State Department, leaving 
Rhett entirely outside the breastwork. This made the irascible 
South Carolinian Davis's deadly enemy. For the present 
but for only a short time Rhett's paper, the influential 
Charleston Mercury, spared the President, but the attack on 
Memminger started at once. Memminger's career, as already 
outlined, left certain openings. The man's record showed 
so ran these journalistic bombardments that, like Davis 
himself, he was a "reconstructionist" at heart. Robert Bunch, 
British Consul at Charleston, notes this suspicion. u Even now 
it is believed that his [Memminger's] feelings are not en 
listed in the movement, the possibility of which he openly 
ridiculed six months ago" so Bunch reported to his Gov 
ernment. Edward A. Pollard of the Richmond Examiner 
joined Rhett in this campaign, describing Memminger as the 
most inept member in a cabinet of "intellectual pigmies." 
Davis "added to his own deficiencies [in finance] by an al 
most inexplicable choice of his Secretary of the Treasury." 
Memminger was chiefly known as a lawyer, said Pollard, and 
"he had the hard, unsympathizing face of that profession." 
He pictured the man as "an unpleasant eccentricity" and "a 
zealot in religion, who had a strange passion for controversial 
theology." 8 The amiable Jones reflects these disrespectful 

3 Pollard's Jefferson Davis, pp. 174-175. 


judgments in his Diary. "Mr, Memminger came in the other 
day with a proposition to cease from labor on Sunday, but 
our secretary made war on it." Jones quoted another caller 
as saying that "Mr. Memminger's head is as worthless as a 
pin's head." 4 Explosive Senator Wigfall of Texas made the 
Secretary a butt. He declared that Memminger had pro 
posed to finance the Confederacy by leaving collection bags 
in the churches. Others assailed him for his foreign birth. 
The term "Hessian" was freely used; at any rate, the man 
was no "Carolinian." 

Memminger's real misfortune, however, was not the abuse 
showered by the Rhett-Pollard combination. In a sense he 
was the one logical appointment in the Cabinet, for he did 
have a knowledge of banking. And in that consisted his bad 
luck. Memminger's reputation had been made as an enemy 
of paper money. For years anything suggesting wild-cat cur 
rency or inflation had riled him. His efforts, more than those 
of any other man, had lifted South Carolina from the financial 
morass in which most Southern and Western states were 
sunk in the fifties, and had made its banks a name of honor 
throughout the Union. The Pollard and Rhett attacks on him 
as a man ignorant of finance thus flew in the face of facts. 
The man was a "gold Democrat" long before that term passed 
into political speech. But the tragedy of his new fate was 
that sound finance was the last thing he would be able to prac 
tice. The man who thought that only gold and silver were 
money would be called upon to pay the bills of his Govern 
ment with endless issues of paper. Had William McKinley, 
in 1897, appointed to the Treasury the most conservative 
banker in the nation, and then instructed him to carry out the 
policies of William Jennings Bryan, he would have done pre 
cisely what Jefferson Davis did when, in 1861, he placed 
Christopher Gustavus Memminger at the head of this depart 

4 A Rebel War Clerk's Diary, Vol. I, pp. 54, 211. (Edition 1935.) 



The headquarters of the Confederate Treasury scarcely 
emblazoned the sovereign power of nearly nine million people. 
The office that was eventually to dispense not far from a 
billion dollars money of a kind found its first abiding 
place in a modest-sized room of the commercial building 
in Montgomery which sheltered the Confederate Govern 
ment. This room, when Memminger moved in, was bare of 
furniture; a rough matting hastily tacked on the floor, a desk, 
and a few chairs quickly transported from a near-by shop, 
finally gave it a faint air of human occupancy. A scribbled 
card attached to the door informed inquirers that this was the 
sanctum of the Confederate Treasury Department. Within 
there reigned only one employee Henry D. Capers, after 
ward Memminger's biographer. Capers always liked to de 
scribe the modest beginnings of this, the financial bulwark of 
the improvised Government. For the first days Memminger 
was busy with Congressional duties, and his secretary main 
tained the shabby little empire. Capers not only managed its 
financial concerns during this interim, but swept and cleaned 
the place. Hardly had the office opened, when a smartly at 
tired, energetic Confederate colonel appeared, with an order 
from President Davis, instructing the Treasury Department 
to provide the wherewithal for fitting out one hundred men. 
"I want the money, sir," he peremptorily informed Mem 
minger's trusty subordinate, u to carry out the instructions of 
the President." Capers dove his hands into his trousers' 
pockets, eventually pulling forth five or ten dollars of Federal 
currency. "This is all the money there is in the Confederate 
Treasury at present," he said. Memminger came to the rescue, 
arranging a small credit at the local bank on his personal 
guarantee. With this the petty-cash requirements of the first 
few days were met. u At the beginning," Memminger himself 


said afterward, "the Confederacy did not have money enough 
to buy the desk on which the Secretary wrote." 

Probably no Government ever started life so handicapped 
in the mere mechanics of the office. For decades the South 
had depended on the North for all the materials of business 
and finance. It had obtained its paper and stationery from 
the area with which it was now at war; all its bank notes 
and bonds had been engraved and printed in New York. Thus 
when the new Government began to plan the issue of all those 
promises to pay that inevitably finance an insurrectionary 
movement, it made a startling discovery. Not an engraver could 
be found to prepare its notes; there was not a sheet of bank 
note paper on which to print them and no printer experienced 
in this kind of work. It Is a curious commentary on the con 
fused situation existing in those early weeks that the Amer 
ican Bank Note Company of New York a company still 
in flourishing condition printed the first bonds and treasury 
notes of a government which its fellow citizens called "rebel." 
These were all ready for shipping to Richmond when the 
Washington authorities seized the assignment as contraband 
of war. Not until the Confederate capital was moved to 
Richmond did it discover the means of turning out the crudely 
engraved pieces of paper that served as the first currency. 
An old German lithographer was found, who, in a fashion, 
executed the plates, and Maryland sympathizers smuggled 
enough bank-note paper from New York to satisfy a temporary 
demand. For office stationery the departments were dependent 
chiefly on shipments from England, and one of the duties of 
the new ambassadorial force was to obtain such supplies in 

The methods adopted by Memminger to finance the war 
have a perennial interest, not only for the student of economics, 
but for the statesman. Military operations to-day involve 
such enormous expenditures that it seems impossible for any 
power to withstand the strain for a protracted period. The 


Confederacy throws considerable light upon this problem. For 
money, as that substance is understood in conservative quarters, 
was practically unknown in that region during the war. Pieces 
of printed paper in vast sheaves inundated a suffering people, 
but coins of gold or silver were rarely seen. At the start, in 
deed, the Treasury did assemble a certain quantity of metal, 
and Mr. Memminger, in four years of office, scraped together 
a total of this liquid capital reaching perhaps $25,000,000. 
That figure represents all the hard cash with which the Con 
federate States were kept going for four years. In that 
quadrennium the Government maintained an army of hun 
dreds of thousands of men, kept employed a great force of 
civil servants, provided the circulating medium for the eco 
nomic life of 9,000,000 people, having at its disposal only 
this minute store of that kind of money which is recognized 
as valid in the markets of the world. That is at the rate of 
about $6,250,000 a year only twice what the Federal 
Government was spending in a single day. 

Mr. Memminger accumulated this modest supply of gold 
and silver by several devices. About $6,000,000 was confis 
cated from Federal customhouses and mints, a little less than 
$3,000,000 was realized from the one gold loan negotiated in 
Paris and London, an undetermined sum from the sale of so- 
called cotton bonds in Europe, and the rest was the product 
of the one successful financial measure adopted by the Con 
federacy. This was the $15,000,000 domestic loan floated in 
the first months of the war. The spirit of patriotism was then 
running high; the average Southerner was aflame to make 
heavy personal sacrifices; the atmosphere was favorable for 
obtaining subscriptions to a loan. In these early days con 
siderable reserves of gold and silver coin were resting in 
private possession or in the vaults of banks. The purpose of 
the loan which was offered in May, 1861, was to draw all this 
money from its personal owners into the Confederate Treasury. 


The plan succeeded with a completeness that cheered the 
heart of Secretary Memminger and enhanced general con 
fidence in the loyalty and steadfastness of the Southern people. 
Individuals brought to the Treasury their stocks of metallic 
money, receiving in return the promises of their Government 
to pay in ten years; and banks extended all kinds of facilities 
to encourage subscriptions. For most of the subscribers this 
was to be a final glimpse at gold or silver. Not for many years 
did they gaze upon the precious object again. Appropriately 
this transaction was called the "specie loan." "Specie" was 
indispensable to the Davis forces in these early days, and the 
only places except the sequestrations noted above from 
which it could be obtained were the strongboxes of citizens. 
The bonds offered could be purchased only for specie; they 
bore eight per cent interest, payable in gold; to service them 
a small tax was laid on cotton exports, also payable exclusively 
in hard money. Thus most of the coin in the Southern States 
started in rivulets in the direction of Richmond, and, in a 
comparatively brief period, it was concentrated in Mr. Mem- 
minger's vaults. The money so obtained, added to the $5,000,- 
000 or $6,000,000 seized in Federal mints and customhouses, 
immediately gave Memminger about $20,000,000 cash. Most 
of it at once found its way to Europe. It was sorely needed 
on that continent, for there the Confederacy was obliged to 
acquire war supplies. European merchants, a hard-fisted lot, 
declined to do business with the new sovereignty except upon 
a cash basis. When Confederate agents first appeared in 
British shipyards and munition plants to place orders, the 
hardy Britisher looked at them skeptically. Where was the 
money forthcoming to pay for this war material? The agents 
first suggested Confederate bonds, only to be met with 
laughter. Shipmasters declined to lay a keel until advance 
payments were put down in good England pounds. The first 
Confederate gold loan, plus the money seized in Uncle Sam's 


mints and customhouses, solved this problem. Part of this 
gold and silver hoard went to build the Alabama, the Shenan- 
doah, and other ships whose exploits become historic. 

For the Southern people themselves the soldiers in the 
army, the civil workers, the merchants, wage earners, and the 
like an entirely different kind of circulating medium was 
provided. While constructors of Alabama* and munition makers 
received compensation in the coin of their respective realms, 
the Southern citizen himself was forced to accept the paper 
evidences of debt which the Richmond printing presses began 
to manufacture in vast amounts. If the Confederate Govern 
ment exemplifies the possibility of conducting extensive military 
operations with a minimum of cash resources, it also illus 
trates, in bewildering detail, all the vices of inflation. It is 
not necessary to rehearse the dreary story again. No need once 
more to tell the wearisome annals of bonds redeemable in 
notes, of notes exchangeable for bonds, of paper money issued 
in hundreds of millions, of the lightninglike enhancement in 
prices, of crazy speculation and ruined fortunes. The Con 
federate story is always profitably rehearsed when modern 
economists wish to picture the folly of the belief, evidently 
ingrained in the human mind, that the mere fiat of a govern 
ment can give value to something which has no value, that 
calling a slip of paper a dollar or a franc or a pound makes it 
one. While the experience of the Confederacy duplicated that 
of other historic attempts of similar kind the assignats of 
the French Revolution, the paper issues of the Continental 
Congress, and more recent but identical experiments follow 
ing the World War it is doubtful if any of these, unless 
it is the last, reached such grotesque depths as did the ex 
pedients of the Davis Government. Issues of paper money 
commonly succeed for a period, and that period can be pretty 
well defined. The people will accept such currencies at face 
value as long as public confidence survives in the ability of the 
government to redeem them in gold. The varying fortunes of 


Federal greenbacks and Confederate Treasury notes from 
1861 to 1865 illustrate this truism. Secretary Chase's paper 
money suffered its ups and downs, as did Secretary Mem- 
minger's, though it never attained such unfathomable depths 
as did that produced in Richmond. No better way of tracing 
the variations of popular expectation of the outcome could 
be devised than the daily quotations for the two currencies. 
During 1861 Confederate fiat dollars stood the strain 
pretty well; this reflected the patriotic fervor of that early 
day, upheld by such a military triumph as Bull Run. Federal 
greenbacks, at their first issue in 1862, soon acquired a similar 
respectability; they symbolized a mighty cause; they appeared 
in Northern eyes instruments of victory, and they aroused 
the same loyal devotion as did the Union flag itself. The 
last years of the. conflict told a different story. At the end, 
Federal paper dollars retained a value of about fifty cents in 
gold; after four years of exceedingly expensive war, in which 
the Federal credit had been strained to the utmost, this can 
hardly be regarded as an extravagant loss of value. Con 
federate dollars, on the other hand, completely mirrored the 
sinking fortunes of the Government that had issued them. 
In the last quarter of 1865 their value was about one cent in 
gold; after Appomattox, one dollar in gold would purchase 
$6000 in Confederate money. One thing that particularly 
annoyed the Davis Government in the latter years was the 
increasing popularity of Federal greenbacks in the Con 
federacy itself. As the Union armies penetrated the South, 
large amounts of this currency seeped into Southern hands. 
Richmond passed laws making its circulation illegal, all to no 
purpose. The eagerness with which Southerners reached for 
this money, at the same time rejecting their own, told the 
story. In their heart the people knew that their cause was 
lost, that some day Yankee greenbacks would attain the value 
of gold, and that their own paper dollars would be worthless. 
Even as early as 1862 the Confederacy was committed to 


this paper basis. By the end of that year it was hopelessly 
mired in the morass. The horror with which Memrninger had 
always looked upon such a circulating medium availed him 
nothing. Month after month he kept sending forth the kind 
of money which he had constantly denounced as unworthy of 
an honest people. The familiar cycle of inflation, in all its 
stages, ran the inevitable course. Paper money inevitably in 
creases prices; increased prices necessitate more paper money; 
so issue after issue followed, as it always does when the process 
is once begun. How irretrievably the Confederacy ran this 
financial rake's progress a few figures make plain. Inflation 
here, as always, started gingerly, deprecatingly; thus the first 
issue, in June, 1861, was a paltry $1,000,000. By the fall of 
1863, the last date for which trustworthy statistics are 
available, $700,000,000 of Treasury notes had flooded the 
Southern States. Beyond that all is darkness and confusion. 
It may safely be estimated, however, that by 1865, Rich 
mond had put forth at least a billion of this currency. 5 Com 
pared to this the North should have marveled at its modera 
tion. Despite its superiority in resources and population, it 
had issued fiat money only to the extent of $450,000,000. 
But these comparative data picture the situation only in part. 
The printed paper of the Confederacy, enormous as its total 
was, represented only a fraction of the worthless currency in 
circulation. The doctrine of State rights, as a principle of 
politics, is fairly debatable, but there is no question that it 
exercises a fatal spell in finance. The Federal Constitution of 
1787 prohibited the states from coining money or emitting 
bills of credit. Not so the Montgomery Constitution of 1861. 
Such prerogatives were then regarded as the sovereign rights 
of states, of which they could not justly be deprived. Soon 
after the war started, individual commonwealths began acting 
on this theory. They added their paper currencies to those of 

6 See The Confederate States of America, by John Christopher Schwab (Yale Bicen 
tennial Publications, 1901), p. 165. 


the Richmond Government. Counties followed states in con 
tributing to this flood. Cities followed counties, and towns 
followed cities. Finally private corporations added to the ever- 
increasing stock. Not only banks, but railroad companies, turn 
pike companies, factories, and insurance corporations joined 
in the mad competition. The need for money in small de 
nominations flooded the country with a variety of odds and 
ends little tokens valued at five cents, ten cents, a quarter, 
and a half dollar. "Shin plasters" were not unknown in the 
North, but no such deluge swept that region as the one which 
now burst upon Dixie. A miscellaneous horde of private 
persons tobacconists, grocers, milk dealers, innkeepers, bar 
bers, and bartenders emitted these tiny bills to an extent 
that sorely taxed the paper supplies of the eleven seceded 
states. To all this enterprise must be added the unremitting 
industry of counterfeiters. Theirs presently became one of the 
most thriving of occupations; the legal money was so crude 
in printing that this army of criminals had no difficulty in re 
producing it. The prevailing demoralization is exemplified 
by the defense that these unofficial gentlemen would put up 
when arrested : they would claim that they were bankers, en 
gaged in a recognized business. 


This financial debacle was particularly tragic because, in 
the opinion of most students, it was unnecessary. All the time 
that the Confederacy was frantically seeking to strengthen 
its money position by endless emissions of worthless currency, 
it had ready to hand the materials on which a splendid financial 
structure could have been built. The most obvious fact in 
Southern life held the solution of its problem. Mr. Mem- 
minger lacked the kind of gold that the geological past has 
secreted in mines, but he did possess the kind that was wav- 


ing in thousands of Southern fields. Cotton, the mainspring 
of Southern history for seventy-five years, the cause of the 
political conflicts that had separated the sections for four 
decades, and that had finally precipitated war, would, wisely 
handled, have furnished abundant power. "White gold," the 
Southern people called it, and never was a name more appro 
priately applied. It dotted almost every acre in the lower 
Southern states, it filled to overflowing every steamboat that 
glided down the rivers, it stood piled on a thousand wharves 
and stored in a thousand warehouses. Here was money, in vast 
quantities, just as real as was the specie that Memminger 
was frantically abstracting from the banks and the coffers of 
private citizens. No alchemist's art was needed to transmute 
this inert substance into the most precious of metals. Six 
months after Sumter was fired upon, a thousand factories in 
Great Britain and France were stretching beseeching hands 
across the Atlantic. "Cotton! Cotton!" became the universal 
cry. On these white bolls, glittering over an ocean of American 
plantations, depended their very existence. Without a steady 
supply whole English counties would close their spinning mills 
and millions of workers would be thrown upon the streets. 
Herein lay the key to successful Southern finance. As long as 
this cotton wealth lay inert in field or warehouse, it possessed 
practically no value. Once landed on European shores, it 
would instantaneously change to liquid credits and become 
an abundant store of that capital without which the Con 
federacy could not survive. With the metal obtained from its 
sale, deposited in London and Paris banks, the Confederacy 
would construct a stronger financial foundation than that of 
the Federal Government. Mr. Davis would quickly become a 
richer President than Mr. Lincoln. With these teeming re 
serves, not only could he have financed Confederate purchases 
in Europe to an enormous extent but he could have given Con 
federate currency a gold basis that would have made the badly 
printed Confederate notes as valuable as the British pound. 


When Benjamin Franklin crossed the Atlantic in 1776 to 
establish a diplomatic home in Paris and negotiate a treaty 
with France, the ship that transported him also carried; in its 
bowels, a cargo of fine American tobacco. This he was expected 
to sell, using the proceeds to pay the expenses of his mission. 
As a financial measure the plan was perfect, for tobacco, once 
deposited in French storehouses, was the same as money. 
The Confederacy should have profited from this example. 
The financial scheme available to its statesmen, in retrospect, 
seems simplicity itself. Cotton planters, in the fall of 1861, 
had millions of bales on hand for which they were despairingly 
seeking a market. They would gladly have exchanged these 
for Confederate bonds. The Treasury could have given out 
its obligations, bonds or notes, for a sufficient quantity of this 
cotton to finance its needs, shipped the product to Europe, 
and, on the great cash balances thus acquired, established its 
fiscal security. Only one member of the Confederate Cabinet 
saw the problem in these elementary terms. Leroy P. Walker, 
the Alabamian who for a brief period filled the war office, 
afterward bore testimony to this fact. At the first Cabinet 
meeting, he related, "there was only one man there who had 
any sense and this man was Benjamin. Mr. Benjamin pro 
posed that the Government purchase as much cotton as it 
could hold, at least 100,000 bales, and ship it at once to Eng 
land. With the proceeds of a part of it he advised the im 
mediate purchase of at least 150,000 stands of arms, and 
guns and munitions in corresponding amount. The residue of 
the cotton to be held as a basis for credit. For, said Benjamin, 
we are entering on a contest that may be long and costly. All 
the rest of us fairly ridiculed the idea of a serious war. 
Well, you know what happened." 6 

One of the Cabinet members who ridiculed the proposal was 
Christopher G. Memminger, Secretary of the Treasury. He 
regarded the idea as both unconstitutional and economically 

6 Life of Judah P. Benjamin^ by Pierce Butler, p. 234. 


unwise. The cotton-buying scheme was advocated on two 
grounds: it would heap up credits for the Confederacy in 
Europe and would bring relief to the planters, then burdened 
with great crops for which there was no market. "Soup house 
legislation," Memminger called the plan, referring to this 
eleemosynary phase of the proposed transaction. The opposi 
tion he displayed rose to plague him in subsequent years. Of all 
the sorrows of Confederate statesmen and generals, after 
Lee's surrender, none were quite so acute as their ruminations 
on this disregarded advice. In every post-mortem on the reason 
for defeat, the failure to use their strength in cotton took a 
leading place. A prisoner in Fortress Monroe, Jefferson Davis 
mourned this fatal oversight. And his references to his Minister 
of Finance were not overgenerous. "South Carolina placed 
Mr. Memminger in the Treasury," Dr. Craven quotes him as 
saying, "and while he respected the man, the utter failure of 
Confederate finance was the failure of the cause. Had Mr. 
Memminger acted favorably on the proposition of depositing 
cotton in Europe and holding it there for two years as a basis 
for their currency, their circulating medium might have main 
tained itself at par to the closing day of the struggle; and that 
in itself would have ensured victory." More than 3,000,000 
bales of cotton rested unused in the South at the time of seces 
sion; if these had been rushed to Europe before the blockade 
had attained any efficiency, said the reminiscent President, 
they would have ultimately brought a billion dollars in gold. 
"Such a sum," Dr. Craven quotes Davis as estimating, "would 
have more than sufficed all the needs of the Confederacy dur 
ing the war; would have sufficed, with economic management, 
for a war of twice the actual duration; and this evidence of 
southern prosperity and ability could not but have acted 
powerfully upon the minds, the securities and the avarice of 
the New England rulers of the North. He was far from re 
proaching Mr. Memminger. The situation was new. No one 
could have foreseen the course of events. When too late the 


wisdom of the proposed measure was realized, but the in 
evitable 'too late' was interposed. The blockade had become 
too stringent, for one reason, and the planters had lost their 
pristine confidence in the Confederate currency. When we 
might have put silver in the purse we did not put it there. 
When we had only silver on the tongue, our promises were 
forced to become excessive." 7 From his prison cell at Fort 
Warren, Boston, Vice President Alexander Stephens put forth 
a similar wail. 8 General Joseph E. Johnston, in his memoirs, 
published in 1874, attributed the downfall of the cause to this 
blunder. The Confederacy collapsed, General Johnston in 
sisted, not because of military weakness, but of financial 9 

Memminger was living when his former colleagues, civil and 
military, poured forth these complaints in books, letters, and 
private conversation. The criticism stung him deeply. He 
refrained from replying to Davis, out of consideration for that 
statesman's misfortunes; but all the fierceness of his German 
heart was expended on Johnston and other revilers. His re 
joinders, on the whole, were not convincing. He could not 
have purchased Southern cotton with Treasury notes or bonds, 
he said, because the Confederacy had no facilities, in this 
early period, to print such instruments of exchange! That 
was a rather childish argument; certainly an ingenious states 
man would have found some way of devising temporary ex 
pedients to meet this difficulty. His next objection was more to 
the point. The entire crop of 1860-1861, continued Mem 
minger, had been gathered and shipped before February, 
1861, when the Confederacy was organized; therefore the 
critics were mistaken who insisted that the Government had 
3,000,000 bales at its service, when war broke out. So far 
as this crop, of 1860, is concerned, Memminger's explanation 
is unanswerable; but most of the critics, like Johnston, were 
referring not to the cotton that had been gathered before 

7 The Prison Life of Jefferson Davis, by John Joseph Craven, pp. 155, 158. 

8 Recollections, pp. 64, 65. 

9 Narrative of Military Operations, pp. 421-4-22. 


February 1, 1861, but to the new crop planted in the spring 
of 1861, and all ready for shipment in the autumn of that year 
This was, in size, a normal crop the last one grown in the 
South until after the war. It was the wealth that was then sc 
embarrassing to the planters. In previous years practically 
all of it had gone to the Northern states and to Europe. The 
North obviously was no longer a customer, but how about the 
European markets? Memminger found his explanation of the 
failure to export this supply in the Federal blockade. This 
had now become so stringent, he said, that all the ships of the 
world had fled from Southern waters. The blockade, it was true, 
had not succeeded in making completely inaccessible Southern 
ports, but it had succeeded in monstrously increasing insurance 
rates and frightening vessels from the Confederacy. The 
South had no tonnage of its own; for the shipping of its main 
source of wealth it had always depended upon the North 
and on England. But all these vessels had vanished from the 
Southern coast by the time the new cotton crop became ready 
for export. To send to Europe 4,000,000 bales would require 
4,000 ships at the average rate of 1,000 bales to the hold; 
where were these ships to be obtained? 

Such figures make the apologia preposterous. No one pro 
posed to load 4,000 ships and launch this crop across the 
ocean in one gigantic armada. The proceeding would have 
taken at least a year, each steamer making ten or a dozen 
voyages; thus, even were the whole 4,000,000 bales landed in 
Europe, it would not have needed one tenth the number of 
vessels the angry Secretary imagined. More important still, 
it was not necessary for the salvation of Confederate finance 
that 4,000,000 bales be exported. The amount suggested by 
Benjamin, according to Mr. Walker's recollection, 100,000 
bales, would have netted not far from $50,000,000. That 
would have given the Confederacy great strength in the early 
critical months. It seems a fair conclusion that not only could 
this much cotton but far more 500,000 bales is the favorite 


estimate have been shipped, a good deal of it before wait 
ing for a new crop, had the Confederate Cabinet proceeded 
with energy. 

But most discussions of this failure, before and since, over 
look the significant point. Benjamin, despite Mr. Walker's 
statement, was not the only Southerner who, at the time, saw 
the possibilities of cotton finance. It was not the failure to 
detect the opportunity, not the Federal blockade or lack of 
shipping, that kept the Confederacy's greatest economic 
weapon uselessly locked up within its own borders. The all- 
important fact is that the South really did not desire to export 
its cotton. Memminger was not the only one at fault; Davis, 
though free enough of criticism in retrospect, cannot escape 
his share of blame. The Confederacy in 1861-1862 not only 
was not shipping cotton, but was taking all precautions to 
prevent it from being shipped. To these statesmen the Federal 
blockade, in those early days, came almost as a godsend. "Mr. 
Davis," says his contemporary Southern biographer, "actually 
welcomed the blockade and vaunted it as a blessing in dis- 
guise." 10 It was assisting the Confederacy in its great objec 
tive, for it was aiding in keeping the darling staple from the 
markets of Europe. Such was the policy of Confederate lead 
ers in this early time. There is therefore no need to discuss the 
question that so agitated Southern statesmen after the war 
whether they could have transported cotton to England and 
France and so have saved the day. They were determined, at 
the outset, that no such attempt should be made. Long be 
fore Lincoln laid his blockade on Southern ports, the South 
had tacitly declared one of their own. This brings us again 
face to face with the greatest single delusion of Confederate 
statesmanship that conviction that "Cotton is King" which 
remained its watchword throughout the war. The experience 
of Yancey and his companions in the Foreign offices of Britain 
and France had not taught the folly of this unreasoning faith. 

10 Edward A. Pollard, Jeferson Davis, p. 169. 


Even after these humiliating failures, the Richmond leaders 
continued to base their hopes on this evangel. The fact is that 
Cotton actually was "King," though in a sense that the Con 
federate Government apparently never grasped. It could have 
been made the supreme support of the cause as a rock of 
financial and economic power. The mere cessation of cotton 
imports never moved the British and French Governments, so 
far as recognition was concerned, but the statesmanlike han 
dling of the strength provided by its cotton crop would have 
built a mighty fortress of financial credit. Whether this in 
itself would have saved the Confederacy cannot be proved, 
but it would have enormously added to the problems of the 
North. Instead of making the best use of this resource, the 
Davis Government deliberately did all in its power to make 
it useless. Lincoln with his blockade, Davis with his embargo 
here were two forces, outwardly enemies, working suc 
cessfully to a common end, the destruction of the South as an 
economic and financial power. 


Thomas Jefferson was the inventor of that policy of "peace 
able coercion" which presently became the diplomatic weapon 
of the South. He believed that he could settle the American 
problems arising from the Napoleonic wars by closing Amer 
ican ports to European commerce. Europe, he maintained, 
stood in such vital need of American products that to with 
draw them would soon bring the enemy to their knees. He 
tried this plan, and, of course, tragically failed. Despite this 
historic example, this same scheme of "coercion" was gospel 
in the plans of the Davis Government in 1861. The idea at 
this time was not a wholesale Jeffersonian cessation of com 
merce. To bring Great Britain and France to terms that is, 
to force them to recognize the South as an independent nation 


all that was required was to keep cotton from reaching 
foreign ports. A "cotton famine" in Europe was the one cer 
tain way to victory. Like most daring military offensives, it 
should be precipitated quickly, almost instantaneously, bring 
ing the foe to immediate surrender by one fierce, concentrated 
attack. To understand this policy, one fact must be kept in 
mind. With a few exceptions all Southern statesmen expected 
a short decisive war. Few imagined that the struggle, started 
in April, would last longer than the succeeding Christmas. 
All plans in this early day were based upon this conviction. 
The "cotton famine" in England and France should therefore 
come quickly, remorselessly, if it was to accomplish its pur 

At that time one fifth of Great Britain's population 
about 5,000,000 was dependent upon the spinning industry. 
The extent to which this aggregate was hostage to a raw 
material produced three thousand miles away had been a 
gloomy foreboding in England for years. Consequently most 
English economists accepted as true the picture gloatingly 
drawn by Southern writers of the desolation that would ravage 
the favored isle with the sudden end of this supply. What 
would be the result, political and economic, should 5,000,000 
men, women and children suddenly be deprived of their liveli 
hood? That revolution would ensue was a common prophecy; 
certainly British foreign trade would face ruin and British pre 
eminence in industry and finance be endangered. To threaten 
its greatest customer with this "cotton famine," to start such 
a "famine" as quickly as possible, now became the mainspring 
of Southern statecraft. The mere prospect, it was thought, 
would strike terror into English hearts and make the world's 
greatest power an ally of the South- It was to be a stroke 
of "frightfulness" in the economic field. 

Thus all means were taken to prevent this commodity from 
reaching Europe. When Yancey and Mann were protesting 
against the Lincoln blockade, denouncing it as "ineffective" 


and a violation of international law, they were really play- 
ing a hypocritical part. The more "effective" that blockade 
became, the better the Davis Administration would be pleased. 
All this time, indeed, Davis was instituting obstructions of 
his own. For the first year of the war, Confederate and 
Federal policy in the matter of cotton kept pursuing an iden 
tical end to stop its shipment. The rival Governments were 
actuated, of course, by different motives. Lincoln wished to 
keep Southern cotton at home because he knew that, once 
placed on English docks, it would give the South impregnable 
financial strength. Davis believed a cotton famine in Europe 
was the one way speedily to end the war. Lincoln's preventive 
measure was known as the "blockade," that of Davis as the 
"embargo." Lincoln's procedure was open, acknowledged; 
the Davis methods were unofficial, not proclaimed from the 
housetops. This caution was diplomatically inevitable. The 
Confederate Government could not brazenly lay an interdict on 
the transportation of its staple. But many bills were introduced 
in the Confederate Congress establishing such a prohibition. 
Debates on this subject, unlike most proceedings in this secret 
assembly, were ostentatiously printed in the newspapers, and 
these accounts of course by intention found their way 
into the English press. Such proposed legislation was useful 
as a threat, but the bills never were passed Davis and his 
Cabinet saw to that. Nevertheless the embargo that followed 
would have been scarcely more effective if it had been ordered 
and enforced by the Government. 11 The whole South plant 
ers, cotton factors, city and state governments, and espe 
cially organized Committees of Safety joined in a con 
certed movement, from April, 1861, until April, 1862, to 
prevent cotton from embarking on the sea. 

Not a bale for Europe, so long as Europe refused to recog 
nize Southern independence ! Such was the battle cry. Planters 

11 The authority on cotton, blockades, and the like is King Cotton Diplomacy, by Frank 
Lawrence Owsley (1931). To this exhaustive study all writers on the subject, including the 
present one, are profoundly indebted. 


kept their cotton stored on the plantations, declining to send it 
down the rivers to Southern ports, fearful, once it reached 
places of shipment, it might be smuggled across the ocean. 
Vigilance committees constantly stood guard, day and night, 
in such great ports as New Orleans, Mobile, Savannah, and 
Charleston, to see that no supplies were transferred to block 
ade runners. Some, of course, did slip through, for the busi 
ness was enormously lucrative, but in the main the work of 
these illegal censors was successful. The warehousemen of 
New Orleans, in August, 1861, issued a circular to planters, 
telling them to send no cotton to that port; it would not be 
accepted for shipment. 12 Other leading cities followed this 
example. Southern governors issued proclamations enjoining 
planters to send no cotton to the seaboard. Governor Milton 
of Florida called such attempts to ship through the blockade 
"an infamous traffic." 13 Memminger afterward said, as noted 
above, that cotton was not sent to Europe in these early days 
because no ships could be obtained. Yet many times British 
ships, loaded with this much desired cargo, were prevented 
from sailing by these self-appointed committees. On one oc 
casion six large British cotton ships, all ready to depart from 
Wilmington, North Carolina, were thus forcibly held in port. 
The disappearance of English vessels from the South in the 
fall and winter of 18611862 is thus easily explained. They 
were not scared away by the Federal blockade, as Memminger 
afterward declared. Foreign carriers abandoned Southern 
ports for the best of commercial reasons there were no 
cargoes to be obtained. Blockade running in 1862 and after 
ward became one of the most profitable industries. So rich 
were the rewards that plenty of captains took the risk of 
Federal capture and this when such risks were much greater 
than in 1861. It would have been similarly profitable in that 
fateful year, and vessels would have swarmed in Southern 

12 King Cotton Diplomacy, p. 30. 

13 The same, p. 37. 


ports, had not the efforts of the Confederacy, official and non- 
official, been concentrated on preventing exports. 

The mania presently reached insane proportions. In the 
winter of 1861-1862 a new watchword swept the South. The 
discourteous treatment of Confederate Commissioners in Lon 
don, the strange obstinacy of Great Britain in refusing diplo 
matic relations with the new Government, further infuriated 
the people. Now was the time really to turn the screws! 
Europe had large reserve supplies of cotton when war broke 
out, but these, by the fall of 1861, were rapidly diminishing, 
and the winter promised to b'e a severe one in the textile areas 
as in fact it proved to be. Southern newspapers, governors, 
chambers of commerce, factors, and planters all joined in a 
new plan of coercion. Plant no cotton in 18621 Burn the 
present supply! Amazing as it seems, both these proposals in 
considerable measure were carried out. A normal cotton crop 
was between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 bales; in 1862 only 
500,000 bales were grown. As a result, the terrible cotton 
famine which had been predicted for England came to pass, 
with all the unemployment and starvation that had been fore 
told only, most exasperating to Southern statesmen, it did 
not bring that recognition on which they had staked their cause. 
The burning of cotton that lighted the South with thousands 
of bonfires in 1862 had its direct consequence in millions of 
English and French workmen walking the streets and high 
ways in the search for bread. Still no recognition came. One 
of the most unrestrained of cotton restrictionists was Albert 
Gallatin Brown of Mississippi, long the rival of Davis in that 
state. In the Confederate Senate Brown called upon the 
Government to purchase all outstanding cotton, and burn 
the entire stock in one magnificent holocaust. That was the 
way to get European intervention I The Government did not 
adopt the suggestion, but In practice the people accomplished 
much in that direction. The advancing Federal armies in 
Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and other states gave these 


wholesale burnings some military excuse. But the necessity 
of war was not the only incentive, probably not the most im 
portant one. The way in which Confederate publicity agents in 
England broadcast the news showed that the Government 
wished to impress on British public opinion the direct interest 
England had in the incineration of a material indispensable 
to its existence. 

And meanwhile, what of Father Abraham's blockade in 
this first year, 1861-1862? Lincoln, whose sense of humor was 
his prevailing characteristic, must have kept his tongue in 
cheek in those first few months, as his sparse and ramshackle 
navy paraded, at long intervals, up and down the Southern 
coast. Lord John Russell, in London, also must have smiled 
secretly as he solemnly assured the world that this blockade 
was an "effective one," entitled to general respect. In all the 
history of naval warfare, probably no such gigantic bluff was 
inflicted on the world. Just consider two facts potent ones, 
in 1861, when Lincoln proclaimed the whole Southern coast 
line under interdict and forbade all ships under pain of cap 
ture and confiscation from attempting to enter Southern ports. 
One of them was that this coast line, suddenly closed to com 
merce, was about 3,500 miles long. The other was that the 
United States Navy, at that moment, had just three ships 
available for enforcing its decree less than one ship to 
each 1,000 miles. The Navy, as a whole, possessed between 
forty and fifty war vessels more or less useful for the purpose, 
but they were scattered all over the globe in North and 
South America, China, and other inaccessible ports. It was 
impossible to convince Union men in 1861 that this scatter 
ing of America's armada had not been deliberate, intended to 
cripple the Government in its dealings with Secession. Whether 
this was the case or not, it took several months to bring the 
Navy home and engage it on the blockade. Even then it was 
pitifully inadequate to the tasL By December 1, Secretary 
Welles had scraped together about 120 steam vessels a 


nondescript lot, ranging from warships to ferryboats but 
this flotilla was absurdly inadequate for the greatest block 
ading task any nation had ever attempted. It is not necessary 
to set forth the situation in statistical detail. 14 The fact is that, 
for the first year and part of the second, all the great ports of 
the South and practically its entire coast line were accessible 
to the shipping of the world; after the spring of 1862 the 
blockade began to tighten, the Federals ultimately having 600 
war vessels stationed at the several strategic points. But for 
the first year no actual blockade existed, except on paper. 
Ships could leave and enter Southern ports almost at will. In 
fact, they repeatedly did so. Southern privateers went out 
unmolested and returned unhindered with their prizes. Numer 
ous ships, defying both the Lincoln blockade and the Davis 
embargo, stole in and presently emerged with cargoes of cot 
ton. Despite Memminger's defense, that there were no ships 
available for this purpose, between 500 and 700 vessels ran 
the blockade in 1861. It may thus be said that, in this, the 
most critical year of the Confederacy, a practically unim 
peded sea highway extended from the Southern States to 
Europe, professor Owsley, the foremost authority on the 
subject, estimates that the Confederates could have trans 
ported one half of the 4,000,000 bales of cotton raised in 
1861 had Davis made any serious effort to do so. 15 

In failing to take advantage of this superb opportunity, 
the Confederacy made the mistake that spelled destruction. 
In any review of Southern finance this fact must be kept fore 
most in mind. Because of this lapse, the Government, by 
January, 1862, after ten months of existence, was a ruined 
financial structure, struggling under a mass of paper money, 
crippled in its credit abroad, its brave soldiers walking bare 
foot in the snow, its munitions supplies constantly inadequate 
to the task, its people hungry for food, the whole extent 

_ 14 For a complete statistical survey of the subject see Chapter VII of Professor Owsley's 
King Cotton Diplomacy. 
15 The same, p. 289. 


of its territory wracked by poverty. The resources that would 
have secured all those things and many more were wasted 
in the pursuit of an impossible foreign policy. The statesman 
ship of all history discloses few blunders so monstrous. 



IN THE field of international finance Memminger's activities 
were limited to a single transaction the negotiation of a 
loan for $15,000,000 in the Paris and London markets. Like 
practically everything pertaining to the Confederacy, these 
Confederate bonds revolved around the subject of cotton. 
By the summer of 1862 the Government understood its great 
initial blunder, the failure to transport this most desired staple 
to Europe and thus establish a huge reservoir of foreign 
credits. Unfortunately, the opportunity had now passed. The 
supply of cotton had greatly decreased. Vast quantities had 
gone up in flames or fallen to the Federal armies, and little 
new seed had been planted in the spring of 1862. The dif 
ficulties of shipping had increased. The Federal blockade, 
while even now not "effective" in the strictest sense, was be 
coming more so every day. No longer did a practically un 
impeded ocean stretch between the South and its European 
customers. Another circumstance, probably more hindering 
than the blockade, was keeping ships from the sea. The great 
est cotton port, New Orleans, since April, 1862, had been in 
possession of the Federal forces. The loss crippled the Con 
federacy in more than a military sense. For years the great 
plantations, those bordering the Mississippi itself, and the 
scarcely smaller areas drained by the Red River, the Arkansas, 
and many others, had sent their cotton to New Orleans, mak 
ing it by far the greatest shipping point of the South. The 
city's capture completely shut off these territories from access 
to the sea. Farragut's fleet had sealed it with a finality that 
a dozen blockades could never have accomplished. The Federal 


Government wasted thousands of lives and limitless treasure 
in efforts to capture Richmond; but, in its effect on winning 
the contest, New Orleans was infinitely more valuable to the 
Federal cause. Its surrender meant that none of the cotton 
raised in this Mississippi watershed could get to market, but 
must lie uselessly on the plantations or be committed to the 

Thus there were several reasons why the opportunity 
which lay open in the previous year of shipping cotton to 
England and France and purchasing with it the supplies in 
dispensable to war had now been lost forever. Still the hope 
persisted that this staple might be used to strengthen the Con 
federacy. In 1861 and 1862 the Government acquired about 
450,000 bales in subscriptions to a so-called produce loan. 
Little likelihood prevailed of sending this to Europe in ap 
preciable amounts ; but could it not still be used in some way 
to obtain European credits? Was there no possibility that 
Europeans would accept this substance as collateral for loans, 
even though it could not be bodily transported overseas? Cot 
ton on Southern plantations or in Southern warehouses hardly 
possessed the value that inhered in the same material deposited 
in Europe that fact was recognized; yet the proffered se 
curity was very real and, at a sufficiently low price, might 
tempt adventurous foreigners. On this basis arose the so- 
called cotton bonds. The plan was simply one to borrow 
money, giving as mortgage cotton lying untransported in 
Southern states, owned by the Confederate Government. The 
plan met with indifferent success. Cotton resting on the soil 
of the Confederacy made no great appeal, as surety for loans. 
It was subject to too many vicissitudes. The enemy might cap 
ture or burn it; every day, in fact, European papers em 
blazoned accounts of such "vandalism." Should the war end 
unfavorably to the South, the Federal Government would take 
care that no cotton to redeem "rebel bonds" be shipped to 
Europe* Thus, while some money was raised on this tenuous 


guarantee, it soon became obvious that no dealings on a 
large scale were possible. 

Still, this distant cotton, distant, that is, in European 
eyes, even though it found little favor with conservative 
investors, presently made a strong appeal to the speculator. 
Widows and orphans could not be enticed into buying cotton 
bonds; but enterprising gentlemen might be persuaded to take 
a flyer on this inert material, even though it was stored three 
thousand miles away. A combination of events in the fall and 
winter of 1862-1863 gave zest to this gambling instinct. The 
first of these was the high price of cotton in Europe and 
the comparatively low price in the Confederacy. The cotton 
famine on which Southern diplomatic policy rested had now 
become a reality. Textile areas in Lancashire and in the north 
ern region of France had reached an appalling depth of un 
employment and misery, and millions of English workers were 
encumbering the highways, in a state of impending or actual 
starvation. Those who think unemployment relief is some 
modern device should study European conditions in 1862- 
1863, when the British and French Governments were carry 
ing armies of textile workers on the poor rolls. The "famine" 
had forced cotton up to fifty cents a pound, or $200 a bale in 
the European market. Yet in the Southern States this same 
product was offered at ten or twelve cents a pound. Such 
possible profits would obviously justify great risks. One pre 
eminent fact, in the winter of 18621863, made purchases of 
cotton at these low figures a tempting gamble. Europe con 
fidently believed that the war was approaching its end. The 
military events of 1862, successful as they had been to Federal 
armies, in the beginning, soon turned the balance in favor of 
the South. The collapse of McClellan's Peninsular campaign, 
the second battle of Bull Run, and the tragedy of Fredericks- 
burg indicated to the average Englishman and Frenchman a 
quick Confederate victory. Lord Palmerston openly joked 
about the discomfiture of the Yankees; Gladstone made his 


famous speech, declaring that Jefferson Davis had "created 
a nation"; and now, for the first and, as it proved, the only 
time, Great Britain seemed to be planning to recognize the 
Davis Government. The intrigues of Napoleon III were evi 
dently bearing fruit; he was in constant communication not 
only with the British Government, but with the pro-Confeder 
ate forces in the British Parliament; and these influences, 
combined with the distress of the English industrial areas, the 
apparently shattered forces of the Federal Government, and 
the generally accepted belief that the Union could never be 
restored, were clearly counterbalancing the nonintervention 
policy of Lord John Russell. At this crisis 1862 and the 
early part of 1863 the Confederacy stood at its peak. If 
money was to be made in a cotton speculation, the time to act 
had come. 

If the Union, as English observers said, was as dead as the 
Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy, its end would bring to the lucky 
holders of cotton a great increase of wealth. The eyes of 
European speculators were dazzled at the prospect. Cotton 
that could now be purchased at ten or twelve cents a pound 
would jump to fifty cents and more if war came to a close with 
a final Southern victory. Since little cotton had been planted 
in 1862, these high prices would prevail for a long time. Out 
of this combination of circumstances Federal defeats, the 
impending recognition of the Confederacy by Great Britain 
and France, the anticipated early end to the war, the low 
price of cotton in the South, and its extremely high price in 
Europe came into being the celebrated Erlanger loan. For 
the important fact to be kept in mind is that this was not a 
loan, as such governmental transactions are usually under 
stood, but a huge speculation in cotton. 

Significantly the first approaches to this transaction did not 
come from the Confederate agents in Europe, but from the 
bankers themselves. At that time John Slidell had secured an 
excellent personal position as Confederate commissioner in 


Paris. His ancestry contained perhaps a Jewish strain; at 
any rate, in Paris he became an intimate of leading Jewish 
families. One to whom he was especially close was Emile 
Erlanger, head of the great French banking house of Erlanger 
et Cie. Presently closer ties bound this wealthy family and the 
Confederate commissioner. Erlanger's son, afterward created 
Baron, quickly fell in love with SlidelPs daughter, the spiritu- 
elle Matilda; and, from that moment, Confederate and French 
relations present a romantic association of Hymen and Haute 
Finance. Erlanger was made the French intermediary in all 
Confederate transactions. He busied himself day and night 
in the Confederate cause; exerted all his influence, which was 
powerful, upon the Emperor in its behalf; bestirred himself in 
the schemes of Maximilian for the Mexican throne; caused 
books and magazine articles to be published presenting the 
Confederacy in most attractive guise; and acted as agent in the 
construction, in French shipyards, of ironclads and corvettes 
for the Confederate Navy. 

It was in September of 1862, at the height of Confederate 
military success, that Erlanger first broached the subject of 
a loan to Slidell. He was prepared to raise $25,000,000 in 
gold in exchange for Confederate bonds. Mr. Memminger's 
bank balances in Europe at that moment were reaching a low 
ebb, and such a windfall as Erlanger now proposed to Slidell 
would clearly establish new credits, thus making possible 
purchases that would speed the expected Southern triumph. 
M. Erlanger was so confident of this that his banking house 
offered to underwrite the entire issue that is, to purchase 
the bonds outright and thus at once put the Confederacy 
in funds. The terms, it must be agreed, were a little severe. 
The bonds were to bear 8 per cent interest; they were to 
be delivered to Erlanger et Cie at 70 any price received 
above that amount in the open market was to go to the bank 
ers. Numerous stipulations for commissions also seemed 
likely to enhance the Erlanger profit. And another condition 


was attached, unusual in the case of solvent governments; 
security was to be exacted. This provision changed the whole 
character of the transaction. Ostensibly a loan, it became 
really a speculation in cotton. For every dollar received the 
Davis Government was to pledge its only source of wealth. 
Each bond was made exchangeable at its face value that is, 
at 100, although the Erlangers were to obtain it at 70 for 
New Orleans middling cotton, at twelve cents a pound, not 
later than six months after the ratification of a treaty of 
peace between North and South. Just as soon as the sounds 
of battle ceased, that is, and this event was regarded as 
certain to take place within a few months, the Erlanger 
bonds were to be transmuted into cotton at twelve cents a 
pound cotton that was marketable in Europe at five times 
that figure. Should any holder be tempted to realize before 
the expected treaty was signed, he could demand his share of 
the much-desired staple at the rate of twelve cents a pound; 
at this demand the material was to be moved from the plan 
tations to within ten miles of a railroad or a navigable river, 
transportation from that point being at the risk of the bond 
holders. Thus Erlanger and his clients pictured themselves, 
at the end of the war, the possessors of not far from $100,- 
000,000 worth of cotton, acquired at one fifth its value. 
In particular the prospect was one that would hold spell 
bound the adventurous group surrounding Napoleon III. 
Emile Erlanger was close to the imperial favor and confidence 
and not improbably Napoleon himself had a finger in this 
promising pie. At least, his interest in the success of the 
"loan,'" which, reached a point that violated all the proprieties 
of international intercourse, and the notorious unscrupulous- 
ness of his own character, warrant such a suspicion. 



Mr. Slidell informed Erlanger that he had no authority to 
conclude such a contract and suggested that the banker go 
in person to Richmond or send representatives. But his cor 
respondence shows that the proposal entranced him. He was 
greatly flattered because the initiative came from the bank 
ers. "These gentlemen presented themselves to me," he wrote 
Benjamin, October 28, 1862, "without any suggestion on my 
part, of a desire to borrow money for the Confederate 
states." * He used one word in this same letter which discloses 
that he may have glimpsed the real motive impelling the 
Frenchmen. "Messrs. Erlanger & Co. proposed to embark 
on the speculation on a much more extended scale." Agents of 
Erlanger were already on their way to Richmond, he added, 
and "will arrive before this despatch." The Erlanger com 
panions, who landed in due course, caused no excitement in 
the Confederate capital. In fact, very few people knew any 
thing of their presence. Mrs. Chestnut, who met all visitors 
worth meeting, made no entry concerning these gentlemen; 
the curious Jones, who would have been unusually garrulous 
had he known that great French bankers, bearing large quan 
tities of gold credits to a sadly depleted Treasury, had in 
vaded Richmond, maintained a portentous silence. The fact 
is that the negotiation was put through with the utmost se 
crecy. Congress ratified the loan behind closed doors; not a 
word concerning it appeared in the local press, and the peo 
ple of the Confederate States heard nothing of it until the 
subscription books were opened in London and Paris. Though 
Memminger was not entirely ignored his signature neces 
sarily appeared in the contracts the chief intermediary for 
the Confederate Government was Benjamin. It proved to 
have been a wise substitution. The conflict of these two Jewish 

1 Official Records of Union and Confederate Navies, Vol. 3, Series II, p. 568. 


brains Benjamin and Erlanger caused modification very 
beneficial to the Confederate Government. Benjamin at once 
saw through the whole scheme; it was a cotton speculation, he 
declared, not a bona fide loan, and rather astonished his com 
patriots at first by opposing it. He denounced the interest rate 
and finally screwed Erlanger down from 8 to 7 per cent. He 
objected to 70 as the price at which Erlanger was to purchase 
the bonds, and succeeded in elevating this to 77. Benjamin also 
declared that an issue of $25,000,000 was too large, and dis 
appointed Erlanger by cutting it down to $15,000,000. 

The truth is that Benjamin was opposed to the whole busi 
ness, even with these amendments. On its own merits, he in 
sisted, he would have advised a rejection. Except for one con 
sideration, advanced by Slidell, he would have sent Erlanger 
back to Paris, his mission unfulfilled. "We would have de 
clined it altogether," he wrote, "but for the political consid 
erations indicated by Mr. Slidell, on whose judgment in such 
matters we are disposed to place very great confidence/' What 
he evidently meant was that this loan would stimulate the 
campaign for recognition, then at high tide. He believed that 
the crowd of government speculators always surrounding 
Napoleon would be stirred to new zeal in behalf of the Con 
federacy. Much as the French Government favored this loan, 
there was one thing that it refused to do. Despite their pro- 
Confederate sentiments, the fact remained that France and 
the United States still maintained diplomatic relations, and 
financial activity on behalf of "rebels" clearly contravened 
international comity. Drouyn de Lluys, French Foreign Secre 
tary, therefore warned Slidell that the loan must not be adver 
tised in the newspapers ; all his publicity efforts must be lim 
ited to circulars. Erlanger took the issue directly to the 
Emperor, who overruled his Foreign Minister. Thus, in vio 
lation of law, advertisements of the Confederate loan ap 
peared in the Paris press. "I mention this," wrote Slidell to 
Benjamin, "as offering renewed evidence of the friendly feel- 


ing of the Emperor." 2 It did indeed, and it also lent color to 
certain suspicions of Napoleon's motives, already intimated. 
Indeed, that his private secretary, Mocquard, had subscribed 
to the loan was a matter of general report in Paris. 3 

Almost simultaneously with the opening of subscription 
books, the younger Erlanger led Miss Matilda Slidell to the 
altar. One of the most cheering features of the marriage cele 
bration was the "brilliant success" of the offering. In London 
especially investors hastened to the bankers to enter their 
names. Many did so in order to display their sympathy with 
the Confederate cause; in fact, several of the leading Tories 
and noblemen of Great Britain testified in this way and, 
as it turned out, to their pecuniary loss to their hopes for 
the speedy collapse of the great Republic. Others, regarding 
the destruction of Federal power as assured, feverishly seized 
this opportunity to acquire marketable cotton at bargain rates. 
Hardly had the subscription books closed, when another great 
military triumph apparently justified their optimism. The sub 
scription books were opened to investors on March 18 ; about 
five weeks afterward came the battle of Chancellorsville, a 
crowning humiliation to Federal arms. By the evening of the 
first day the loan was oversubscribed; in a week the demand 
reached $80,000,000 though only $15,000,000 had been put 
on sale. Purchasers appeared not only in England and France, 
but in all parts of Europe. Mason, Confederate agent in 
London, announced that one subscription came "even from 
Trieste" ; as this Adriatic port was the home of Maximilian, 
then meditating his attack on the Mexican throne, this was 
perhaps a guarded way of including him among the bondhold 
ers. Naturally an atmosphere of jubilation enveloped Con 
federate headquarters in Paris and London. "You will, be 
fore this despatch can reach you," wrote Slidell to Benjamin, 
"have seen by the newspapers the brilliant success of Erlanger 

2 Official Records of Union and Confederate Navies, Vol. 3, Series II, p. 719. 
8 See Lest We Forget by John Bigelow, Jr., p. 7. 


and his loan. The affair has been admirably managed, and 
cannot fail to exercise a most salutary influence on both sides 
of the Atlantic. It is a financial recognition of our independ 
ence, emanating from a class proverbially cautious and little 
given to be influenced by sentiment or sympathy/' 4 "I think 
I may congratulate you," wrote Mason, March 30, "on the 
triumphant success of our infant credit; it shows, malgre all 
detraction and calumny, that cotton is King at last. 11 * 

Erlanger issued the bonds to the public at 90; as he had 
underwritten them at 77, his "spread," as modern bankers 
would say, gave him a profit of thirteen points. When quota 
tions presently rose to 95% the highest ever attained 
great riches seemed to have fallen into his lap. But soon some 
thing happened. The Mason and Slidell reports to Benjamin 
presently lose a little of their triumphant ring. Their confi 
dence in the outcome is still expressed, but not so exultingly. 
The distressing fact was that prices for Confederate bonds, 
soon after this auspicious beginning, began to fall. On April 9 
Mason recorded that the loan was fluctuating from day to 
day "with a depressing tendency, until in a single day it 
dropped 2 to 2J4 per cent, closing that day from 4 to 4^4 
per cent discount." M. Emile Erlanger appeared somewhat 
disconsolately in his office. The Frenchman had an explana 
tion for this unexpected turn. "The Erlangers, with their 
advisers in London, came to me and represented that it was 
very manifest that agents of the Federal government here 
and those connected with them by sympathy and interest were 
making concerted movements covertly to discredit the loan 
by large purchases at low rates, and, succeeding to some ex 
tent, had thus invited the formation of a 'bear 1 party, whose 
operations, unless checked by an exhibition of confidence 
strongly displayed might and probably would bring down 
the stock before settlement day (April 24) to such low rates 

4 Official Records of Union and Confederate Navies, Vol. 3, Series II, p. 721. 
. 730. 


as would alarm holders and might in the end lead a large 
portion of them to abandon their subscriptions by a forfeiture 
of the instalments (15 per cent) so far paid." 6 

The Erlanger accusation proved to be not entirely ground 
less. Naturally Mr. Adams in London and Mr. Dayton and 
John Bigelow in Paris had not been uninterested observers of 
this attempt to bolster Confederate credit in Europe. Any 
thing they could do to circumvent this effort was clearly re 
garded as their duty as representatives of the United States. 
There is a poirtted passage in a letter written about this time 
by Mr. Bigelow, then consul general in Paris, subsequently 
Minister to France. Mr. Bigelow's duties as consul general 
were merely a cloak to hide his real activities which were 
to act as a kind of "publicity man'' for the Federal Govern 
ment, to guide the French press in an accurate understanding 
of the American crisis, to serve as a foil to Henry Hotze, who 
was fulfilling this task most ably for the Confederates. Mr. 
Bigelow's comments on this fiscal enterprise were not over- 
complimentary. He denounced the whole thing as a "swin 
dling transaction" and his opinion of the Erlangers, whom 
he called "the midwives of the loan," were not more flatter 
ing. In a communication to Seward, April 17, 1863, he put his 
finger on one possibly vulnerable joint in the finance of Mr. 
Jefferson Davis. "I am surprised that no one ever thought of 
collecting the evidence of J. Davis' counsel in favor of repu 
diating the Mississippi debt. Slidell has contradicted the state 
ment and there is no means on this side of the Atlantic of 
proving it. I think it will be worth whatever trouble it may 
involve to accumulate all the evidence and lay it before the 
public with as little delay as possible." 7 

Mr. Seward was not slow in adopting Bigelow's suggestion. 
Soon Robert J. Walker, an ex-Secretary of the Treasury of 
the United States, and an accomplished student of economics 

6 Official Records of Union and Confederate Navies, Vol. 3, Series II, p. 736. 
Recollections of an Active Life, by John Bigelow, Vol. I, p. 642. 


and finance, began flooding the London newspapers with let 
ters on "Davis, the Repudiator" setting forth how the 
President of the Confederacy, as a Senator from Mississippi, 
had publicly defended the action of that state in defaulting 
on its bonds, and described those who bewailed their losses as 
guilty of "crocodile tears." As most of the sufferers were Eng 
lish investors, the airing of this episode hardly helped the Er- 
langer loan. Seldom has a press campaign proved so effective. 
Events were also facilitating Walker's campaign. That recog 
nition of Southern independence on which the Erlangers had 
rested hopes of a speedy end of the war had not been forth 
coming. The military situation, after the terrible reverse at 
Chancellorsville, again suddenly changed in favor of the 
North. Grant, who for several months had been pounding 
away vainly at Vicksburg, was now actually making progress. 
Lee was beginning preparations for his disastrous invasion 
of Pennsylvania, much to the misgivings of his admirers. 
These circumstances, and above all the Walker revelations, 
had reduced Erlanger to panic. Drastic measures, he pleaded, 
must be adopted to save the rapidly dwindling Confederate 
credit. And now ensued the most picturesque chapter in the 
history of this ill-fated loan. 


The plight of Erlanger et Cie can be readily understood. 
They had pledged themselves to take the entire $15,000,000 
at 77 a speculation of something more than $11,000,000. 
So long as the bonds were being quoted at 90 and more, and 
so long as the fortunes of the Confederacy were smoothly 
sailing, this contract was all very well. When the issue began 
to fall on the stock exchange, with the likelihood that it 
would drop far below 77, the prospect of great profit was not 
so glittering. Financiers have discovered only one way of 


checking the debacle when securities like these start on the 
decline. That is to speculate in their own stocks. A huge buy 
ing campaign is the one possible method of stemming the 
downward rush. Such expedients are hazardous and expen 
sive and Erlanger had no stomach for risking his own prop 
erty In such an adventure. But there were certain bank de 
posits that might be used. Subscribers to the Confederate 
bonds had paid considerable installments on their subscrip 
tions and the money was lying in foreign banks to the credit 
of Mr. Memminger's department. Could this not be advan 
tageously used to counteract the machinations of unscrupulous 
Yankees ? It was true that trusting Englishmen for most of 
the purchasing had taken place in London had paid this 
hard cash largely out of sympathy with the Southern cause and 
might be shocked at its being used to boost artificially their in 
vestment on the Stock Exchange. But there was no reason why 
they should know anything about it. "All this thing," Mr. 
Mason wrote Benjamin, describing the buying campaign, "is, 
of course, done in confidence." There are evidences that, at 
Erlanger's blunt suggestion, Mason was a little shocked. "I 
confess I was at first," he wrote Benjamin, "exceedingly averse 
to it." He called in Slidell and expressed his reluctance to 
use Confederate money and his Government had so little ! 

in market operations of the kind. But presently the Er 
langer group began to use other than soothing arguments. 
Mr. Shroeder, the Erlanger representative in London, observ 
ing this delicacy about using subscribers' funds to "strengthen" 
their own securities, resorted to threats. If the Confederate 
agents declined to enter into this scheme, then Erlanger et Cie 
would withdraw from the whole proceeding, and close the 
subscription books. At that time the first installment, about 
$2,000,000 already paid in, did not belong to the Confederacy, 

so Mason and Slidell were informed but to the bank 
ers; it represented part of the commissions they had been 
guaranteed. If, as the firm now intimated, the enterprise 


should be abandoned, naturally the money already in bank 
would become the property of the Paris bankers. 

A meeting took place, those present being Erlanger, Mason, 
Slidell, and James Spence, an English adviser of the Confed 
eracy, who hated the Frenchmen and denounced them as little 
better than swindlers. Spence put up a heroic fight, but Mason 
and Slidell gave way to their exactions. An understanding was 
reached, under which it was agreed that "if the market 
opened after the Easter recess under the same depression, the 
government [that is, the Confederate government] should 
buy through Erlanger and Company, but of course without 
disclosing the real party in the market, in the manner indi 
cated." 8 This written contract, signed by J. M. Mason, for the 
Confederacy, and Emile Erlanger & Company and H. Ham- 
berger, may be read to-day in the official records of the Con 
federacy, published by the United States. 9 The "Whereases" 
are uncommonly piquant. They recite that "various parties have 
set themselves to depressing the loan in the market by circulat 
ing rumors, by selling large amounts for future delivery and by 
other machinations in order to alarm the holders and if 
possible to drive them to abandon the loan," and that this 
plot has succeeded so well u that, if unresisted, it may have a 
disastrous effect on the interest of the government and the 
bondholders." Therefore Erlanger et Cie are empowered to 
expend $5,000,000 of Confederate money in an attempt to rig 
the market. 

In two days Erlanger paid out $2,000,000 to "strengthen" 
the bonds. This succeeded in advancing the issue one or two 
points. Ultimately about $6,000,000 was poured into the buy 
ing campaign. It all came from the subscribers who bought 
the bonds. The result should have been foreseen in advance. 
Through several weeks the experience was the same. The 

8 Mason to Benjamin, Official Records of Union and Confederate Navies, Vol. 3, 
Series II, p. 756. 

9 Mason to Benj amin, Official Records of Union and Confederate Navies, Vol. 3, 
Series II, p. 73 8L 


days when the Confederacy was purchasing its own bonds, 
those securities remained "firm," and even went up a trifle; 
the moment this support was withdrawn, they went down. 
Had "the government" possessed an inexhaustible supply 
of cash, it could have kept prices up indefinitely. But its 
"stabilization fund" was limited. And, about the time this 
golden fountain dried up, other circumstances, more destructive 
than Walker's contributions to the press, or the "raids" of 
Federal "bears," dealt Confederate finance a terrible blow. 
These were the battles of Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Port 
Hudson. Henry Hotze, the very clever and very frank Con 
federate publicity man in London, described the effect of these 
Southern disasters. "When the last lingering doubts about the 
events on the Mississippi were removed," he wrote to Ben 
jamin, 10 "and no hope remained of Lee again turning upon the 
enemy, the loan, despite the utmost exertions of its friends, 
fell with accelerating velocity, until it touched the unprec 
edented depth of 36, though only for a moment. . . . You 
may be sure that Federal agents did not fail to avail themselves 
of this trepidation, and it is stated positively by those who have 
means of knowing that large sums of money are freely exercised 
to injure the credit of the Confederacy. You have here, in the 
tremulous condition of the loan, a sufficiently accurate descrip 
tion of the state of public opinion." We know now that the 
Federal victories of 1863 destroyed the Confederacy. They 
also annihilated what was left of Confederate credit. In par 
ticular they cast the Erlanger loan into a disrepute from which 
it never emerged. 

Scholars in Confederate finance have little difficulty in 
uncovering the real facts in the Erlanger loan and the stock 
market operations associated with it. Erlanger was not so 
simple as to believe that a purchasing campaign of a few mil 
lion dollars would restore permanently Confederate credit. 
This was not his real motive for browbeating Mason and 

10 Official Records of Union and Confederate Navies, Vol. 3, Series II, p. 875. 


Slidell into embarking on such an enterprise. At bottom his 
interest did not lie with the Confederacy and the solidifying 
of its standing was not the cause nearest his heart. John Chris 
topher Schwab, for many years Professor of Economics at 
Yale, the most authoritative student of Confederate finance, 
discovered, after a painstaking study of the Erlanger loan, only 
one party who found it profitable. That was the banking house 
of Erlanger et Cie. Matilda Slidell's father-in-law emerged 
from the transaction with gains not far from $2,700,OOO. rL 
Of the total receipts, according to Professor Schwab, "about 
$6,000,000" was "squandered in bulling the London market 
with no lasting effect upon the standing of the bonds." 12 Yet 
certain speculators did profit from these essays on the Ex 
change. Erlanger et Cie again! For Professor Schwab was 
convinced that the bonds they were exchanging for what was 
left of the Confederate gold supply were their own. The 
real motive for the famous contract with the gullible Mason 
and the shrewder Slidell was to sell back to the Confederacy 
a good proportion of the securities they had underwritten 
at 77. "They are certainly open to the grave suspicion," says 
Professor Schwab, "of having themselves been large holders 
of the bonds in question, especially in view of the presumably 
large amount of lapsed subscriptions, and of having quietly 
unloaded them on the unsuspecting Confederate agents when 
the market showed signs of collapsing." 1S Thus $6,000,000 
of the Confederacy's receipts vanished in this desperate at 
tempt to "strengthen" the issue. That left Mr. Memminger 
about $5,500,000 in gold, but large amounts of this disap 
peared in the shape of a bewildering array of bankers' com 
missions and other contractual perquisites and the bank 
ers, of course, were Erlanger et Cie. It is a fair estimate that 
the Confederate Treasury obtained about $2,500,000 from a 
bond issue for which it had pledged payment to the extent 

11 The Confederate States of America, John Christopher Schwab, p. 36. 

12 The same, p. 35. 

13 The same> p. 35. 


of $15,000,000 in capital and seven per cent in interest. On 
this basis the French bankers and the Confederate Govern 
ment realized almost the same cash returns, which must be 
regarded as an historic curiosity in international finance. 

The real losers were the purchasers of the bonds, mostly 
English sympathizers with the Confederacy. In the treasure 
chests of many of the greatest English families Confederate 
bonds repose to-day, souvenirs of a curious episode in British- 
American relations. Their many attempts to realize on these 
securities at times going to such grotesque extremes as ap 
peals to the Federal Government to redeem them form one 
of the minor tragedies of the Civil War. 




THE respective roles played by Mason and Slidell in this stock 
jobbing operation one the dupe and the other the wire 
puller were thoroughly in character. They accord well with 
the description of these gentlemen current at the time. Mason 
was honest, obtuse, and blundering, Slidell shrewd, able, and 
unscrupulous such seems to have been the opinion of both 
friend and foe. "Mason was the personification of insolence, 
Slidell of craft" so ran a newspaper comment of the time. 
"Mason was ardent, impetuous and arrogant," remarked that 
Connecticut Yankee, Gideon Welles, "Slidell crafty and de 
signing." The writings of the Adams family, during the Civil 
War and afterward, are sprinkled with adjectives of similar 
tenor. Mason "lacked the finesse of Slidell," according to 
Charles Francis, American Minister to England; according 
to his son and namesake, Mason was "a dull-witted Virginian" 
and Slidell "an acute, intriguing Louisianan," while Henry 
Adams, his father's secretary, expresses his astonishment, in 
his Education, that Mr. Davis "chose Mr. Mason as his agent 
in London at the same time that he made so good a choice as 
Mr. Slidell in Paris." 1 

These are the opinions of enemies, but the appraisement of 
friends does not greatly differ. Mrs. Chestnut treats the 
eminent Virginian with contempt. "My wildest imagination 
will not picture Mr. Mason as a diplomat," she recorded, 
when news of the appointment reached Richmond. "He will 

^-Education of Henry Adams, p. 184. 


say 'chaw' for 'chew' and he will call himself 'Jeems' and he 
will wear a dress coat to breakfast. Over here whatever a 
Mason does is right in his own eyes. He is above law. Some 
one asked him how he pronounced his wife's maiden name; 
she was a Miss Chew from Philadelphia. They say the Eng 
lish will like Mr. Mason; he is so manly, so straightforward, 
so truthful and bold." 2 

The spiteful but entertaining lady tells of an argument with 
Russell, of the London Times, who insisted that Mason and 
his colleague in the United States Senate, Hunter, were the 
most admirable of the Southern leaders. "Now you just listen 
to me," Mrs. Chestnut retorted. "Is Mrs. Davis in hearing? 
No? Well, this sending Mr. Mason to London is the mad 
dest thing yet. Worse in some points of view than Yancey 
and that was a catastrophe." 3 

"A fine old English gentleman," Russell insisted, "but for 
tobacco." This reservation concerns that free rumination of 
the quid quite general with Southern statesmen and by no 
means unknown at the North. Mason's tobacco-chewing, in 
deed, has passed into legend. Anecdotes from malicious Yan 
kees floated across the Atlantic describing ambassadorial 
expectorations on the floor of the House of Commons, and 
other inappropriate shrines. 

Clearly, these disjointed vignettes do not comprise the com 
plete picture. Russell was as vindictive in his comments on 
Southerners as on Northern men, and his judgment of Mason 
must be placed alongside these unfriendly sketches. The Times 
man discussed the new-made diplomat with William Porcher 
Miles of South Carolina. "We agreed perfectly. In the first 
place, he has a noble presence really a handsome man; 
is a manly old Virginian, straightforward, brave, truthful, 
clever, the very beau ideal of an independent high-spirited 
R F. V. If the English value a genuine man they will have 

2 Dairy from Dixie, p. 116. 
*The same, 117. 


one here. In every particular he is the exact opposite of Tal 
leyrand. He has some peculiarities." 

Yet Russell was not consistent in his treatment of Mason. 
He greeted the appointment of Mason and Slidell with com 
ments in the London Times that made unpleasant reading for 
the friends of both of these statesmen. He had his own solu 
tion for the problem that puzzled Mrs. Chestnut and her 
coterie. Why had Davis selected this not overtactful gentle 
man as his envoy to England? Mainly, wrote the journalist, 
to get rid of him. "It is not too much to suppose that he 
sent them [Mason and Slidell] on their mission because they 
were in his way. Mr. Mason is a man of considerable belief 
in himself; he is a proud, well-bred, not unambitious gentle 
man, whose position gave him the right to expect high office, 
for which in some respects he was unfitted at home, where 
his manners, his accomplishments and his knowledge of so 
ciety, as well as his moderation of opinion in reference to the 
merits of other systems of government, were well suited for 
a foreign mission. Mr. Slidell, whom I had the pleasure of 
meeting in New Orleans, is a man of more tact and is not 
inferior to his colleague in other respects. He far excels him 
in subtlety and depth and is one of the most consummate 
masters of political manoeuvre in the States. He is a man 
who unseen moves the puppets on the public stage as he lists, 
a man of iron will and strong passions, who loves the excite 
ment of combinations and who in his dungeon, or whatever 
else it may be, would conspire with the mice against the cat 
rather than not conspire at all." 4 

Most references to James Murray Mason describe him 
as "an old-fashioned Virginian," a kind of eighteenth-century 
survival, the embodiment of the qualities and manners that 
made the word "Virginian" a distinctive force in the Ameri 
can evolution. The fact is that Mason was an "old-fashioned 
Virginian" in an even more authentic sense. He was one of 

4 London Times, December 10, 1861. 


those rare phenomena in "cavalier Virginia" a veracious 
"cavalier." Modern Virginia historians have destroyed the 
"cavalier" tradition in its most extravagant form. The idea 
once widely prevalent in the Old Dominion that Virginia was 
chiefly "Anglo-Norman" in its population and New Eng 
land more rustically "Anglo-Saxon" one derived from, rul 
ing lords of the old country, the other from their conquered 
churls no longer prevails. Agreement is general now that 
the settlers of both North and South represented, in the main, 
the same social classes; they were city merchants, even artisans 
and landless country folk looking for acres of their own. 
While this general statement is true, it is true also that a small 
number of "cavaliers" in the proper understanding of that 
term followers of the King in the civil wars, and well-born 
officers in the Royal army did flee for safety to Virginia 
after the triumph of Cromwell and establish families on the 
Potomac and the James. One of them was that John Wash 
ington whose name is not inconspicuous in American history; 
another was Colonel George Mason, member of Parliament 
in the reign of Charles I and commander of a regiment of the 
Royal army at the battle of Worcester. Here we apparently 
have a genuine "cavalier." Honors in plenty came to this 
George Mason in colonial Virginia, but his chief glory is 
that he was grandfather of the celebrated George Mason of 
Gunston Hall. Virginians have long regarded this philosopher 
author of the Fairfax Resolves, of the first Virginia con 
stitution, and of that immortal Bill of Rights, incorporated 
in large part in the first ten amendments to the Federal Con 
stitution as one of their three or four leading publicists. 
He has gained an almost ambiguous fame for his work in the 
Philadelphia Convention; after playing a determinative role 
in framing the Constitution Mason refused to sign it and 
exerted all his influence in the Virginia Convention to prevent 
its adoption. 

The reasons for this independent behavior have consid- 


erable interest in viewing the career of his grandson, the 
Confederate envoy to Great Britain. The Federal Constitu 
tion, in the opinion of the master of Gunston, sinned in two 
ways. It recognized slavery and (for a stipulated period) the 
slave trade. Nothing seemed quite so evil, in the estimation 
of this Virginian, as the enslavement of the black man. He 
declined to put his name to an instrument that condoned it. 
In the second place, the Constitution flouted his fundamental 
gospel of the supremacy of the states. He wanted no "con 
solidated" union to take the place of those little republics 
which he regarded as the guardians of supreme sovereign 
power. His grandson, James Murray Mason, companion of 
Slidell in Confederate diplomacy, loyally adopted the second 
article in this ancestral creed, but abandoned the first. He 
proved true to his grandfather's teaching by becoming one 
of the strictest of strict constructionists, but sadly departed 
from George Mason's humanitarianism by adopting, in its 
extremest form, the new Southern gospel of slavery extension. 
Those two ideas comprised the basis of a political life extend 
ing over more than thirty years. The fierceness with which 
Mason sponsored them transformed him into a hero of the 
advanced school of Southern rights, and at the same time 
made him in Northern circles almost the most odious figure 
in American public life. Probably his relationship to George 
Mason intensified his unpopularity in New England. The 
orator of slavery, the author of the fugitive-slave law, the 
foe of the Compromise of 1850, the advocate of slavery ex 
tension to Oregon and California, the preacher of Secession 
at a time when most Southerners rejected it and when most 
Virginians recoiled from the proposal in horror, the apologist 
of Bully Brooks for his assault on Sumner, the leader of Vir 
ginia disruption in 1861 such was James M. Mason's 
record in part, and New England moralists felt an eloquent 
disgust that this man should be the grandson of the gentle 
spokesman of liberty, human equality, and freedom for the 


blacks in 1787. Mason had added the vice of apostasy to 
doctrines in themselves detestable! This feeling explains the 
hosanna of joy that swept the country north of the Potomac 
when Mason, with his confreres, was seized on board the 
British packet Trent and taken to Fort Warren, Boston, as 
prisoner of war. The Union had bagged the most abhorrent 
of its enemies I The emotions described by Charles Francis 
Adams, Jr., in his Autobiography were felt in every Northern 
breast. He tells of a freezing walk in November, soon after 
the historic seizure. "In sleet and snow, in chilling winds and 
under cheerless skies, my spirits rose as I walked to and 
from the railroad station (for we were still at Quincy, and 
my walk to the train was over the hill and commanded a 
full view of Boston Bay) and looked at the low, distant walls 
of Fort Warren, surrounded by the steel blue sea, and re 
flected that those amiable gentlemen were there, and there 
they would remain! I remembered the last exhibition I saw 
Mason make of himself in the Senate Chamber, and I 
smacked my lips with joy." 6 

As prophecy, this outburst proved unfortunate for 
Mason and Slidell suffered durance for only a brief period 
but the passage is priceless as a picture of the New England 
resentment at a grandson of George Mason who had proved 
faithless to that statesman's great ideal. Mason spent many 
boisterous years in public life before he attained this eminence 
of hatred. His early Virginia existence flowed quietly in the 
most charming Virginia tradition. Born in 1792, at George 
town, he alternated his winters at that pleasant suburb with 
his summers at Analostan Island in the Potomac, not far 
from Gunston Hall The "island," as it always affectionately 
figured in his recollections, formed part of the patrimony 
which his father had inherited from the illustrious George. 
It was a complete plantation on the most approved eighteenth- 
century model. Like all of the Potomac "manors," it made an 

5 Charles Francis Adams, Autobiography, pp, 127-128. 


economic entity in itself. Across the water stood Gunston with 
all its varied intimations of democracy and the ancient regime 
a favorite rendezvous of Washington, birthplace of many 
of the impulses and concepts that found lodgment in the Con 
stitution. James Mason's father, fourth son of the great 
colonial thinker, inherited not only this splendid estate but 
the love of country life that formed so large a part of the 
Virginia character. George Mason, the father, in manners, 
tastes, and associations was no Democrat any more than 
was his fellow philosopher, Thomas Jefferson. He believed 
in books, in tobacco planting, in friendship, in genial com 
panionship with his equals; and he also believed in birth 
and landed estates. He had complete confidence in Virginia 
and assumed that his beloved state had qualities of leadership 
not discernible elsewhere. It was in this conviction that James 
Murray Mason was born and nurtured. 

Despite this loyalty to everything lying south of the Po 
tomac, James Murray went north of that boundary for the 
two most important things in any man's existence, his educa 
tion and his wife. Both he obtained in Philadelphia. The Uni 
versity of Pennsylvania endowed him with one, conferring 
its bachelor's degree in 1818; the important Philadelphia 
family of Chew gave him the other. In selecting his sphere 
of action, Mason showed independence again; first of his line 
to abandon Tidewater, he migrated, soon after marriage and 
an apprenticeship in law, to the distant city of Winchester, 
in western Virginia. This town, of which much was to be 
heard in Civil War days, was then standing guard at the 
head of the Shenandoah, almost a frontier outpost; this fact 
opened a promising prospect to a young man who, abandon 
ing the family habit of tobacco growing the Potomac soil 
was rapidly thinning tempted fortune in the, practice of 
law. In his profession Mason had considerable success; his 
modest home, Selma, presently became a social center; an 
accomplished wife and a large family of children provided 


the domestic delight, which, for several years, seemed to be 
his chief interest. But Mason, though he had abandoned the 
family environment, did not prove false to its traditions. 
Even in this new country the political prerogatives of certain 
clans was unquestioned. Masons for generations had repre 
sented their counties in the Virginia House of Burgesses 
now House of Delegates and James Murray was fond 
of reading the Congressional Globe and following the ups 
and downs of state concerns in the Legislature. In this latter 
body, in his thirtieth year, he appeared as member for Fred 
erick County. His career as lawmaker was independent and 
creditable, but brief. In 1829 Mason appropriately appeared 
as a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention called 
to modernize the document which his grandfather had put 
together in 1776. From that day he was one of the reigning 
political favorites of a large part of the state. He served one 
term in Congress, and when, in 1847, Senator Pennypacker 
died, the Governor appointed him to the vacancy. And with 
his entrance in the Federal Senate, Mason's real career began. 


At this time he was forty-nine years old; he remained in 
continuous service in the upper chamber until his expulsion 
by the angry brethren amid the disturbances of 1861. In this 
body Mason upheld for fourteen years, at times unpleasantly, 
the cherished Virginia pretension. He was the most arrogant 
embodiment of the Virginia claim to superiority in the science 
and amenities of government. The man was really a throw 
back from the eighteenth century; he revivified the "barons" 
of the Potomac and the James, enemies of the "levelers" who 
took seriously the Declaration of Independence. James Mur 
ray Mason and his confreres were arrayed against the pro 
letarian tide, especially that which was rising in the large 


cities of the North. Trade and manufacturing they regarded 
as unworthy the interest of gentlemen; even agriculture in 
general they looked down upon, unless it involved so dis 
tinguished a product as tobacco; recently they had con 
descended to include cotton as fairly respectable, but they 
still regarded the word "planter" as only properly applied 
to the grower of the noble weed. Aristocracies may lose 
wealth, prestige, and influence, but there is one thing that 
they do not lose, or do so only gradually and protestingly. 
That is pride. And pride, even "hauteur/* burned as fiercely 
in the breast of Virginia statesmen in 1850 as in 1789. The 
political power which they had lost remained a pretension 
to which they persistently clung. Their leaders regarded 
Northerners as presumptuous upstarts, usurpers of the lofty 
heights that belonged in justice south of the Potomac. To 
those who take psychology as a potent force in history, the 
influence of this insulted dignity on developments preceding 
the Civil War should be a most suggestive study. Someone 
has said that Virginia, in the decades from 1830 to 1860, had 
two choices to become the tail of the North or the head 
of the South ; and it would be a simple matter to show how, in 
culture, intellect, manners, and statesmanship the best classes 
in Virginia had more in keeping with the Brahmins of New 
England than with that uncouth Southwest with which, after 
much hesitation, it cast its fortunes. But logic did not exclu 
sively direct sectional policy in this era. Ordinary human emo 
tions grief at vanished glory, anger at the refusal of 
North and West to concede cavalier precedence, and fear 
of ultimate submergence played an important part. The 
mental state of political Virginia was one of insistence on 
its capacity to lead and protest against a growing national 
tendency to ignore that claim. The mere fact that Mason be 
came a Senator evidences this state of mind. The magic of 
his name, rather than inherent ability, explains his election* 
That name symbolized Virginia's past and the yearning of 


Virginians for a revival. James Murray well embodied this 
pride and hope. Physically he looked the part Tall, large- 
framed, dignified, if slightly pompous in bearing, with a fine 
leonine head, from which, on the sides, reached out huge bil 
lows of gray hair; a face half questioning, half friendly; 
kindly though almost suspicious blue eyes; a tight slit of a 
mouth and a small feminine chin the expansive features 
well accorded with the old Potomac background. Even as 
cordial a hater as Charles Francis Adams, Jr., conceded this. 
"Mason, of Virginia," he writes of a visit to Congress in 
1860, "afterwards my father's vanquished opponent in Lon 
don, also attracted my attention from the first, a large, 
handsome man, not unpleasant to look at, as dressed osten 
tatiously in Virginia homespun, he appeared to own the Senate 
Chamber." But Adams also found him "overbearing to the 
last degree, self-sufficient and self-assertive." 6 Very serious 
he was his daughter lists among the books, gifts of Bishop 
Meade, which Mason used to read to his wife, such tomes as 
The Philosophy of True Religion, The Power of Religion on 
the Mind; his lighter gifts included a small talent at playing 
the flute; like a good Virginian he loved horses and was a 
skillful rider, and he loved to work in his garden and chop 
down trees. But, despite occasional references to a "hearty 
laugh," humor and gayety did not much disturb his sober 

The new Senator's debut was most Masonian. His rev 
erence for the Constitution immediately appeared. What more 
natural? Was not his grandfather to a considerable degree 
its author? But his allegiance was especially unyielding to 
the first ten amendments. These were the revered articles 
that had prevented the Constitution from being the "consoli 
dated" despotism that Hamilton and Madison had planned, 
and had made it a compact of sovereign states. And of all the 
life-saving amendments Mason hugged most closely to his 

6 Autobiography, p. 47. 


bosom immortal Article X. "The powers not delegated to 
the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it 
to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to 
the people/' On that rock rested the whole doctrine of State 

But it was Mason's slavery worship that explained the 
odium which his name quickly acquired in other sections. For 
there was nothing gentle in his advocacy. The epithets most 
frequently attached to him in the literature of the time are 
"arrogant," "presumptuous," "overbearing." Mason held 
few slaves himself, but that was because he lived in the 
western section of Virginia. His devotion to the idea grew 
intenser as years went on. Here again his motives were not 
strictly philosophic. He adopted the new slavery dogma be 
cause it was Southern and because it aroused hostility in the 
North. He wished to see the nation expand on the basis of 
Southern, not Northern culture. In every situation that arose 
from 1847 to 1861 his proslaveryism, hypersensitive to every 
whiff of public opinion, immediately sprang into life. The 
visit of Louis Kossuth inspired from him a flood of vitupera 
tion. Most Senators even Southern Senators left their 
cards when that patriot came to Washington. Mason was 
one of the few exceptions. Congress gave the Revolutionary 
leader a banquet, but Mason refused to attend. What was 
the great man's sin? Merely that he had expressed an opin 
ion that slavery was an evil. Mason was one of the most im- 
temperate advocates of "the positive good" in Kansas, his 
Kansas speech proving to be about the most ferocious which 
that bleeding territory called forth. In 1850, the year of the 
Compromise, Mason did not ally himself with Toombs, 
Yancey, Stephens, Howell Cobb, and many more of the great 
Southern chieftains. He joined the Rhetts and other obscurant 
ists in fighting the bills. He would not surrender an inch on 
slavery extension in order to save the Union, and contemp 
tuously uttered his "disgust" with fellow Southerners who 


showed a more complaisant mood. The real reason was that 
Mason, even at this early day, cared nothing for a Union 
that had repudiated the leadership of Virginia. He was ready 
for Secession in 1850; six years afterward he openly advo 
cated it. In case of Fremont's election, Mason's programme, 
loudly proclaimed, was "secession immediate, absolute and 

Naturally these sentiments received even more emphatic 
expression during the Lincoln campaign. Mason was one 
of the first to hail South Carolina's defection, declaring 
that that act made the United States of America a thing of 
the past. His most conspicuous act of legislation proved an 
embarrassment in his career as ambassador. He was the author 
of the Fugitive Slave Law. In view of these activities, his per 
sonal associations in Washington caused no surprise. He be 
came a member of Calhoun's "mess" soon after reaching 
Washington, and one of the numerous candidates for that 
great man's "mantle" after his decline. James Murray was 
the disciple Calhoun selected to speak this final allocution. In 
the presence of that spectral figure the Virginian sonorously 
intoned this testament of Southern protest and foreboding. 
But the younger man had characteristics not derived from his 
high-minded preceptor. He embellished Calhoun's doctrines 
of sectionalism and secession with a bitterness that was all his 
own. This appears especially in his dislike of New England. 
He was a follower of Robert Young Hayne in his feeling 
on this score without Hayne's ability and oratorical power. 
This despite the fact that New England now and then made 
a tender of good feeling. Thus, in 1857, on the dedication 
of a monument to Joseph Warren at Bunker Hill, Mason was 
invited to be one of the speakers. His appearance on that oc 
casion aroused dissonant emotions. He spoke appreciatively 
of Warren and Revolutionary New England, but he also used 
this rostrum as the scene for delivering a eulogy on State 
rights. Those disgruntled natives who thought it "sycophantic" 


to invite the author of the Fugitive Slave Law to grace this 
festival insisted that their worst apprehensions had been jus 
tified. But the cordiality of his reception in Boston did not 
increase Mason's love for Yankee-land. New Englanders, in 
his view, had no political principles and no political talents; 
their leaders he looked upon as hucksters, concerned only 
with trade; their more modest citizens were mere artificers, 
engaged in manual labor. To such a community statesman 
ship was alien; it needed Southerners above all, Virginians 
to show it the ways of government. This was Mason's first 
visit to New England and his last. An invitation that came 
some years afterward led him to indulge in the strangest of 
prophecies. No, he said, he would not go to New England a 
second time; he would never visit that country again except 
in the guise of an ambassador. No forecast was ever more 
grotesquely fulfilled. A few months after making it Mason 
was a prisoner in Fort Warren on an island in Boston Har 
bor; and he was an ambassador, too, in a sense not, as he 
anticipated, from the Southern Confederacy to the Northern 
Republic, but from the Davis Government to the Court of 
St. James's. 

This New England antagonism came into high relief when 
Mason, in the middle fifties, found himself in close Senatorial 
propinquity to Charles Sumner. Their personal relations, at 
first civil enough, soon became torrid. Neither was governed 
by a compromising temperament and when Sumner, in his 
omniscient way, started to discuss the black man, immediate 
signs of discontent were audible from a station not far from 
his own. Sumner, soon after arrival, announced his intention 
of introducing an amendment that would repeal the Fugitive 
Slave Law. When he declared that he would soon speak on 
this explosive theme the haughty author of that measure, 
scowling at the foe, shouted, "By God, you shan't I" and, in 
deed, by the clever manipulation of parliamentary rules, he 
did prevent the avalanche. But only for a time. This passage 


served as preliminary to the speeches that preceded the on 
slaught of Bully Brooks. Reading this debate in the sober 
light of the present day convinces one that the honors, in the 
matter of name-calling and invective, were fairly even. The 
phrases did not materially differ from those that had been 
cheerfully bandied in the same chamber for several years. 
Summer's reference to a drooling impediment in Senator But 
ler's utterance as "the loose expectoration of his speech/' 
and his criticisms of that statesman for assiduously courting 
"the harlot slavery" were quite matched by Mason's descrip 
tion of Sumner as "a common artificer and forger"; but the 
palm for literary expression really must go to the Massachu 
setts man. Sumner analyzed the defects of the Virginia states 
man In more seemly detail. "Among these hostile Senators," 
he said, "there is yet another, with all the prejudices of the 
Senator from South Carolina, but without his generous im 
pulses, who, on account of his character before the country 
and the rancour of his opposition, deserves to be named. I 
mean the Senator from Virginia [Mr. Mason] who, as author 
of the Fugitive Slave Bill, has associated himself with a spe 
cial act of inhumanity and tyranny. Of him I shall say little, 
for he has said little in this debate, though within that little 
was compressed the bitterness of a life absorbed in the sup 
port of slavery. He holds the Commission of Virginia, but he 
does not represent that early Virginia, so dear to our hearts, 
which gave us the pen of Jefferson, by which the equality of 
men was declared, the sword of Washington, by which inde 
pendence was secured; but he represents that other Virginia 
from which Washington and Jefferson now avert their faces, 
where human beings are held as cattle for the shambles, and 
where a dungeon awards the pious matron who teaches little 
children to relieve their bondage by reading the word of life. 
It is proper 'that such a Senator, representing such a state, 
should rail against free Kansas." Mason, in his reply, referred 
to certain inconveniences, of the Senatorial life. One was that 


"they bring us into relations and associations which, beyond 
the walls of this chamber, we are enabled to avoid; associa 
tions here whose presence elsewhere is dishonor and the touch 
of whose hand would be a disgrace." 

The episode to which these compliments served as pro 
logue the bludgeoning of Sumner, almost his murder, by 
the South's avenging angel, Preston Brooks elicited loud 
rejoicings south of the Potomac. Many voices subsequently 
prominent in the Confederacy Toombs, Jefferson Davis, 
Mallory, Secretary of the Navy, Slidell, Mason's twin in the 
foreign field shouted ululations of praise. Among the most 
approving was Mason himself. He wrote a widely circulated 
letter, eulogizing the assailant; when Brooks appeared in 
court to answer the charge of felonious assault, Mason ac 
companied him, as friend and moral support. All these de 
tails obtained wide circulation in the English press, which, 
then as now, delighted to report the more barbarous aspects 
of life in the Great Republic. Perhaps this was one of the 
reasons why Mrs. Chestnut, on the ground of diplomatic 
expediency, regarded his appointment as a blunder. It was 
one of the reasons that made Richard Cobden, when Mason 
reached London, stigmatize him as "that old slave dealer." 


In the minds of contemporary Americans, Mason and Slidell 
signify chiefly one of the most celebrated events in the diplo 
macy of the nineteenth century. The story is so familiar that 
it need not detain us long. Sailing, one dark and rainy night, 
from Charleston, their ship successfully ran the blockade and 
landed in Cuba in late October. Two weeks afterward they 
embarked on the Trent, a British steam packet bound for 
Southampton, England. It so happened that Captain Charles 
Wilkes, of the United States Navy, who was bringing home 


from Africa one of those Federal warships which the Buchanan 
Administration had stationed far away from the American 
coast line, put into a Cuban port at the very time that Mason 
and Slidell were sojourning in that friendly country. Entirely 
on his own initiative, Captain Wilkes conceived a bold plan. 
Stationing his ship in the Bahama Channel, athwart the course 
of the Trent, he stopped that vessel, firing two shots across 
her bow, sent a searching party aboard, and seized Mason 
and Slidell as prisoners of war, ultimately depositing them in 
Fort Warren, Boston Harbor, Seldom has a naval exploit 
caused such world-wide excitement. Naturally the whole Brit 
ish Empire was ablaze. Lord Palmerston, then in one of his 
most imperialistic moods, proposed to demand the immediate 
release of the captives and a groveling apology. The British 
Navy was mobilized for action and large military forces 
sent to Canada. The proceeding involved many curious, al 
most amusing, circumstances. One was that Captain Wilkes, 
in invading this British ship and seizing these distinguished 
passengers, had violated international law as always inter 
preted by the United States. The other was that his act was 
authorized by British precedents. It was for depredations re 
sembling this, perpetrated by the British Navy against Ameri 
cans, that the United States declared war on Great Britain in 
1812. Again, had Wilkes slightly varied his procedure, Eng 
land would have had little ground for action. Had he seized 
the ship Itself, instead of violently ripping from it four 7 
civilians, and taken it, with all its cargo, human and material, 
to the nearest American port and handed it over to a prize 
court, there is little doubt that this would have been regular. 
For the Trent was carrying Confederate despatches, and these, 
according to the Queen's recent proclamation, were contra 
band of war. A ship carrying such contraband is subject to 
search and seizure and adjudication by a prize court. Captain 
Wilkes's foolhardy behavior brought the United States to the 

7 The other two were the Secretaries to Mcsgrs. Mason and Slidell. 


verge of war at a moment when, in the Confederate States, It 
had about as much trouble of that kind as it could conveniently 

Inherently the position of the American Government was 
not a difficult one. Captain Wilkes had acted entirely on his 
own responsibility, without orders or the slightest intimation 
from his Government. Instead of being widely acclaimed as a 
hero, he should really have been court-martialed. Washington, 
with no loss of dignity, could have disavowed the seizure and 
surrendered the prisoners. But the attitude of the British 
Government at first made this almost impossible. Its demand 
for restitution, as first framed, was couched in insulting terms, 
such as no proud nation could accept. Happily that despatch 
never went beyond the British Foreign Office. Before being 
sent it was submitted for approval to the Queen. Much fanci 
ful history had been conceived about Her Majesty's inter 
vention. So far no one has unearthed a scrap of evidence show 
ing that Victoria sympathized with the Federals or had the 
slightest interest in democracy. 8 But that her husband, the 
Prince Consort, did intervene, and that she acted in accordance 
with his persuasion, is the fact. Albert spent several hours 
going over the preliminary draft, blue-penciling its offensive 
phrases, introducing here and there a conciliatory sentence; 
the episode derives pathos from his own condition at the time, 
for the illness from which he died two weeks afterward was 
already upon him. He himself told the Queen he could barely 
hold the pen while writing the paper. Instead, therefore, of a 
browbeating demand, the Lincoln Government received a most 
friendly message, expressing the British conviction that Cap 
tain Wilkes had acted without the knowledge and authority 
of his Government which, in truth, was the case and that 
therefore the United States would not refuse to release the 

8 See the chapter, "Queen Victoria and the Civil War," in Studies Military and 
Di-plomatic, by Charles Francis Adams, 2nd (1911). The most authentic account of the 
rewriting of the Trent despatch is found in The Life of the Prince C*nsott y by Sir 
Theodore Martin, Vol. V, p. 347 tt scq. 


prisoners and give adequate apology. Mr. Lincoln met this 
request in the same spirit; Mason and Slidell were freed from 
their u dungeon" in B'oston Harbor, delivered to a British 
warship, and safely transported to their diplomatic posts. The 
most superb piece of editing in history had prevented a sense 
less war between Great Britain and the United States, and the 
gratitude of both nations to the Prince Consort has always been 
profound. That the outcome was satisfactory to Lord Russell 
and Palmerston was also true. Both statesmen wished to avoid 
war with the United States; their policy from the first ex 
cluded such a drastic programme and only an open defiance 
and "insult" from Uncle Sam, such as the seizure of the Trent, 
could move them to hostile action. In that day the "civis 
Romanus sum" principle was the brightest jewel in Britain's 
diplomatic diadem, and only the violation of this by the United 
States could produce a menacing gesture from the Foreign 

This kidnapping and imprisonment represented the nearest 
approach Mason and Slidell made to a diplomatic triumph. 
They had been sent abroad to embroil the United States in 
war with Great Britain and France; and, without any effort on 
their part, they came within an inch of succeeding. Locked in 
their cells in Boston Harbor, they were a terrible menace to 
the American nation; once landed in London and Paris, their 
capacity for mischief-making was greatly curtailed. This was 
evidenced on their arrival in London. They stepped upon the 
railroad platform unwelcomed and unnoticed, like the most 
obscure travelers; although their names had filled the press of 
the world for nearly three months, no one paid the slightest 
attention to their advent The whole transaction had left the 
British people with a sense of irritation. Mason and Slidell 
were about the most expensive guests who ever crossed the 
British threshold; their recapture and the military prepara 
tions involved had cost the British Exchequer not far from 
$20,000,000. Possibly this explains the one editorial greeting 


extended by the British press. The London Times, until then 
an unfailing assailant of the Federal Government, now sud 
denly veered and vented its loudest thunder against the Con 
federate envoys. 

"How are we to receive these illustrious visitors?" it asked. 
"Of course they will be stared at and followed and photo 
graphed and made the subject of paragraphs. There is no help 
for that Messrs. Mason and Slidell, though not so handsome 
and graceful as their countryman Blondin, 9 would certainly fill 
the Crystal Palace if they proposed to address the visitors 
there on the merits of their cause. But we may as well observe 
that Messrs. Mason and Slidell are about the most worthless 
booty it would be possible to extract from the jaws of the 
American lion. They have long been known as the blind haters 
and revilers of this country. They have done more than any 
other men to get up the insane prejudice against England 
which disgraces the morality and disorders the policy of the 
Union. The hatred of this country has been their stock in trade. 
In this they have earned their political livelihood and won their 
position, just as there are others who pander to the lowest 
passions of humanity. A diligent use of this bad capital has 
made them what they are and raised them to the rank of com 
missioners. It is through their lifelong hatred and abuse of 
England that they come here in their present conspicuous 
capacity. The nation under whose flag they sought a safe 
passage across the Atlantic, the nation that has now rescued 
them with all her might from the certainty of a dungeon, and 
the chance of retaliating murder, is that against which they 
have always done their best to exasperate their countrymen. 
Had they perished in the cell or on the scaffold amid the 
triumphant yells of the multitude, memory would have sug 
gested that their own bitter tirades had raised the storm and 
that their death was only the natural and logical conclusion of 

9 The famous tight-rope walker, at the time one of the sensations of London. He was 
a Frenchman, not an American, as the extract implies. 


their own calumnies and sophistries. So we sincerely hope that 
our countrymen will not give these fellows anything in the 
shape of an ovation. The civility that is due to a foe in distress 
is all that they can claim. The only reason for their presence 
in London is to draw us into their own quarrel. The British 
public has no prejudice in favor of slavery, which these gentle 
men represent. What they and their secretaries are to do here 
passes our experience. They are personally nothing to us. They 
must not suppose, because we have gone to the verge of a 
great war to rescue them, that they are precious in our eyes." 10 
This diatribe was not accidental; it unquestionably was in- 
, spired by the Government, and represented the official attitude 
toward two unwished-for guests. Lord Palmerston and Delane, 
editor of the Times, were close friends and confidants, and 
that paper was frequently used to express informally the real 
emotions and sentiments of the Cabinet. Mason was unpopular 
because he stood for something most distasteful to British 
officialdom. He wished to drag Great Britain into war with 
the United States. But war was something that Britain did not 
desire, especially in behalf of a people fighting for slavery. 
Not that the Government, as a Government, or the ruling 
classes felt kindly to the American Union. In fact, the inmost 
sentiments of the governing classes and the aristocracy, as 
well as those of European royalty, were hostile to the United 
States. These elements applauded the secession in 1861; in 
their minds it had freed them of a great international nuisance. 
Nothing could exceed the jubilation of Tory journals 
Blackwoods, the Quarterly Review, the London Times, the 
Morning Post over the collapse of the greatest experiment 
in democracy the world had ever known. For the general con 
viction prevailed that the Confederate guns aimed at Fort 
Sumter had not only doomed that fortress, but had ended 
definitely this presumptuous attempt of men to govern them 

10 The London Times, January 11, 18*2. 


This belief that the Union was forever destroyed was that 
not only of enemies, but of friends. All classes accepted the 
great American schism as permanent. Unless one grasps the 
wide extent to which this conviction prevailed, at least until 
the latter part of 1863, British policy cannot be understood. 
Those who rejoiced at or at least were not discomfited by 
the debacle of the Union, like Palmerston and Gladstone, 
and those who bewailed it, like Cobden and John Bright, were 
agreed on this point. The broken fragments of the United 
States could never be put together again. In the judgment of 
most well-wishers to the British empire, it was better so. 
Voices were indeed raised, such as Cobden's and Bright's, in 
sisting on such fantastic considerations as justice, liberty, en 
lightened human progress; but these new statesmen did not 
administer governmental programmes. The attitude of the 
forces in command was well expressed in a letter written 
November 20, 1861, by Uncle Leopold, King of Belgium, to 
his niece, Queen Victoria. He regarded it "as of vital im 
portance to England that there should be two great Republics 
instead of one, the more so as the South can never be manu 
facturing and the North, on the contrary, is so already to a 
great extent and actually in many markets a rival." n He had 
already expressed horror that the Comte de Paris and the Due 
de Chartres, grandsons of Louis Philippe, had entered the 
Federal army and thus exposed themselves "to the chance of 
being shot for Abraham Lincoln and the most rank radi 
calism." ** Here are the two reasons why the aristocracy hailed 
the American war; it would kill a British business rival and 
give a blow to popular rule. 

The King's commercial view was echoed by Gladstone, who, 
however, preferred four republics to two, and liked to amuse 
himself with a map of the United States, drawing the bound 
aries of his projected new nations. In one respect the United 

11 The Letters of Queen Victoria, Second Series, Vol. I* p. 48. 

12 The same, p. 453. 


States was a greater rival to Great Britain in 1861 than it is 
now. After the Civil War the American flag disappeared so 
completely from the seas, and Britain's became so preeminent, 
as it still is, that Americans have fairly forgotten the 
days when their mercantile marine was almost as large as 
England's. In particular the greater part of the rich trans 
atlantic trade was in the hands of American vessels, and 
American ships, in beauty and in speed, were the envy of man 
kind. The extent to which, as a consequence of war, the carry 
ing trade was being shifted to the Union Jack did not displease 
those Englishmen who took a materialistic view of the contest. 
A weakened United States meant or so they thought an 
economically stronger England; therefore, from the stand 
point of "enlightened egoism," the spectacle of America tear 
ing itself to shreds was not without its compensations. 

To-day the world properly regards Great Britain as a great 
political democracy. But in 1861 it was not a democracy at 
all. It was not a nation in which the masses possessed and 
wielded political power. That is to say, they did not vote. So 
far as the ballot was concerned, England had advanced little 
beyond the standards of George III. The "great Reform 
Bill" of 1832 had not widely extended the franchise; it had 
abolished rotten boroughs and given populous regions repre 
sentation in Parliament, but the English people, as before, 
remained without the vote. The ruling powers fought doggedly 
all movements intended to give city workmen or agricultural 
laborers any voice in electing members of Parliament. Until 
1867, at least 20,000,000 Britons had no representation in the 
House of Commons; of 7,500,000 men twenty-one years old, 
less than 1,000,000 could take part in elections. In 1861, great 
discontent prevailed among the disfranchised majority; it 
was regarded as a danger that might lead to revolution. The 
propertied and aristocratic classes looked upon the American 
Republic as the greatest menace to their power. The "Ameri 
can example" was an ogre that haunted their dreams. For the 


tremendous success of the United States, its growth in popula 
tion and territory, in wealth, in general happiness and en 
lightenment, provided the reformers with a powerful argu 
ment for the spread of the same democratic system in England. 
John Bright, the leader of the rising masses, constantly pointed 
across the Atlantic. Give Englishmen the vote, and they would 
correct existing abuses and march side by side with their 
American brothers in everything that made life worth living! 
Bright and his associates were even accused of desiring to 
discard the British Constitution and adopt the Philadelphia 
instrument of 1787 in its place. 

There was only one way of meeting these arguments, and 
that was by discrediting the American experiment. The trav 
elers' literature published in the half century preceding the 
Civil War, picturing and exaggerating the faults of the United 
States and minimizing its virtues, was a part of this campaign. 
And now, at last, all these dire prophecies had been fulfilled; 
America had been destroyed by its own vices ! No longer would 
it be heralded as a model for democracy in England. Now 
Englishmen could see what fate had in store for them should 
they transform their nation into a republic or even give the 
people the ballot. Educated Englishmen, wrote Charles Francis 
Adams, really cared nothing for the South; their "true motive 
is the fear of the spread of democratic feeling at home in the 
event of our success." "The real secret of the exultation which 
manifests itself in the Times and other organs over our troubles 
and disasters, 1 ' said John Lothrop Motley, "is their hatred, 
not of America, as much as of democracy in England." The 
Morning Post, Lord Palmerston's favorite organ, struck a 
similar note, declaring that the triumph of the Union would 
be the greatest triumph democracy had ever won, while 
Matthew Arnold echoed the fear that Britain, in case of a 
Federal victory, would be "Americanized." It was freely fore 
told at country houses that the success of the North would 
mean a republic in their own country. That prophecy was not 


so absurd as it seems m a modified sense it came true After 
Appomattox the demand for the vote became so determined 
that British Torydom was forced to yield, and by the law of 
1867, began that extension of the franchise which has made 
Britain as responsive a democracy as is the United States 
When Joseph Chamberlain and Sir Charles Dilke m the 
seventies, raised the banner of the English Republic their mam 
argument was the United States which they declared, had met 
successfully the greatest test to which any nation can be sub 
jected that of civil war 

Despite all this even royalty did not wish intervention In 
the first place, this was not necessary to that Federal defeat 
which the aristocracy so desired What was to be gamed by 
war with the United States ? Indeed, the longer the war went 
on the better for Europe, for the longer it lasted the more 
would the great transatlantic rival be weakened There was 
thus no sense m tempting the dangers that intercession in 
volved Palmerston, falling back on cheap doggerel echoed 
this fear * Those who m quarrels interpose are apt to get a 
bloody nose J he chanted and he likewise called attention to 
the proverbial risk one ran m interfering m a fight between 
husband and wife that the combatants may temporarily lay 
aside their differences and jointly pitch upon the interloper 
Perhaps Seward was right an attack by England on America 
might start such an outburst of national feeling that the Old 
Country would confront a much larger enemy than she had 
bargained for Then there was the British merchant marine 
At the first sound of battle, the United States would let loose 
hundreds of privateers against British commercial ships Amer 
icans had no fears of a counterattack from Britain for their 
commerce had already disappeared from the seas Lord 
Palmerston had been Secretary at War from 1812 to 1815, 
the period of America s second war with England in those 
three years American privateers had sunk about 2,500 English 
ships almost England's entire marine Palmerston did not 


care to go through such an experience again; neither did 
British shipmasters. Canada also represented a formidable 
hostage to fortune. In 1862, when the question of intervention 
was uppermost, the United States had a splendidly equipped 
and trained army of more than 600,000 men; should it de 
tach say 100,000 from Southern camps, and march them across 
the border, the conquest of Canada, utterly unprepared for 
war, would have been a simple matter. Gladstone saw this so 
clearly that he Imagined a unique solution for the problem. He 
meditated a plan of recognizing the Confederacy, and, as ap 
peasement and "compensation" to the Federal Government, 
offering it the annexation of Canada ! 

Why run all these dangers when the one thing British 
Toryism desired above all the practical destruction of the 
United States Americans were themselves so successfully 
bringing to pass? 





THIS purely egoistic conception of foreign policy was well 
embodied in the two men then dominant in the British Cabinet. 
Both these statesmen Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister, 
and Lord John Russell, Foreign Secretary were products 
of the eighteenth century. Palmerston was born in 1784, three 
years after Yorktown; he was himself five years older than 
the American Government, if that Government is dated from 
the inauguration of Washington in 1789. John Russell was 
born in 1792, and looked upon himself as the inheritor of the 
political ideas of Pitt, Charles James Fox, and George 
Canning. Both men derived from the upper aristocracy; 
Palmerston fell heir to an Irish viscounty at eighteen years of 
age, while Russell was a cadet of the great ducal house of 
Bedford. Though frequently antagonistic and unfriendly, 
Palmerston and Russell stand out in the history of their epoch 
as political twins. "Pam and Johnny 1 * so were they known in 
popular parlance. Queen Victoria, who intensely disliked them 
both, for they had a way of disregarding that good lady's 
desires and thwarting her most cherished plans, called them 
her "two bad boys" and delighted in quoting a characteriza 
tion of the time, which pictured them as u Robin Hood and his 
Little John." For Russell was as diminutive in size as Palmer 
ston was large; when the former married a widow, London 
paragraphers began to refer to him as "the widow's mite." To 
write the lives of these two men would be to relate the history 
of England for the half century preceding the Civil War. They 
had the habit of alternating in high position, and this sequence, 
individualistic as they were, gave them a kind of identity in 








o t- 

co 00 

< H 

S oo 




the management of Britain. Both were Prime Minister twice; 
when Russell held the Premiership, Palmerston was Foreign 
Secretary; when Palmerston ascended to that post, Russell 
went to the Foreign Office. Thus, foreign policy, in 1861, was 
the thing that had always chiefly interested both men; and 
in reality Mason had to conciliate two Foreign Secretaries in 
stead of one. 

Palmerston's absorption was Europe. He knew little about 
America and cared less. All his associations with American 
problems, for the previous thirty years, had stimulated this 
Tory aversion for Palmerston, in opinions and prejudices, 
was always an eighteenth-century Tory, despite his party 
affiliation with the Whigs. As noted above, he retained vivid 
recollections of the unpleasantness of 1812; and the many dis 
putes between England and America that had followed since 
had strengthened his view that Americans were bumptious, 
bad-mannered, persistently insulting to England, overbearing 
in maintaining their rights, undisposed to yield an inch or 
to stand in the slightest awe of Britain's power, where their 
interests were concerned evincing many of the qualities, in 
deed, for which Palmerston himself was distinguished. Sim 
ilarly, he abhorred Seward for a pro-Americanism that could 
be matched only by his own truculent devotion to the interests of 
Britain. "The Yankees," he complained, "are most disagree 
able fellows to have to do with about any American question." 
Their land-grabbing propensities another quality in which 
"Pam" himself was not deficient he found irritating. "I have 
long felt inwardly convinced that the Anglo-Saxon race will 
in process of time become masters of the whole American 
continent, North and South. It is not for us to assist such a 
consummation, but, on the contrary, we ought to deky it as 
much as possible." He fumed over the Ashburton treaty, de 
nouncing it as the "Ashburton capitulation." Oregon and the 
disputes that followed "fifty-four forty or fight," American 
intrigues in Cuba and Central America led him to denounce 


his transatlantic cousins as "swaggering bullies" and to medi 
tate a military campaign against them; the British fleet was to 
capture Southern ports, conquer the Southern States, and free 
all the slaves ! This meditated John Brown raid, under British 
auspices, suggests the most praiseworthy explanation for Palm- 
erston^ anti-Americanism* It is possible, in this flippant, jovial, 
reckless statesman to discover at least two passions that burned 
hotly. One was his worship of the British Empire. His greatest 
ambition, he once declared, was u to be a good Englishman" 
and to thwart all attempts to humiliate his country. The other 
was his hatred of African slavery. One of Palmerston' s first 
acts, as a young Member of Parliament from Cambridge, was 
to introduce a petition against the slave trade ; he championed 
the movement which, in 1833, led to the emancipation of 
slaves in British possessions; and, with Lincolnian fervor, he 
never missed an opportunity "to hit that thing" whenever and 
wherever it showed its head. 

One might think that this would have made Palmerston 
think kindly of the Federal Government in the pending con 
test. Such, however, was not the case. Yet his unfriendliness 
can be easily exaggerated. In fact, it has been. Americans, at 
that time and afterward, transformed this good-natured op 
portunist into a kind of monster, spending his nights and days 
weaving plots for the destruction of the United States. Some 
of his jibes at the Union army, and especially his characteriza 
tion of Bull Run as "Yankee's Run," did not increase his 
popularity in the North. But the facts do not support the 
once accepted picture of Palmerston as a force constantly in 
triguing against the Lincoln Government. The most important 
of them was that, fundamentally, Palmerston had no great in 
terest in the drama. His thoughts were fixed elsewhere. His 
eyes were cast eastward, not westward; there was plenty to 
engage his attention in Europe, and America concerned him 
only as it helped, or hindered, his plans in that direction. 
Students of the everlasting problem "why did England 


not intervene in the American Civil War ?" devote too much 
attention to the United States ; what they should study, above 
all, is the situation in Europe. It was because a war with the 
United States would disarrange and probably frustrate 
Britain's purposes in this, Palmerston's real world, that he 
had no wish for such an adventure. Southern statesmen, in 
1861-1863, were accustomed to rail at England's "pusillanim 
ity"; Benjamin, himself British-born, found the keynote of 
British behavior to his Confederacy "fear of a war with the 
United States." This word "fear" may be disregarded, but 
certainly Palmerston, in 1861, regarded such a conflict as bad 
policy. Europe, at that moment, was about as unstable a place 
as it is at the present time. Nationalities were in flux then, as 
they are now. New nations and new empires Italy and 
Germany were coming to life; ancient states Turkey, 
Austria, the Papacy were dissolving. The ambitions and 
animosities engendered by these phenomena were quite enough 
to keep sleepless the nights of a statesman who was guiding the 
British Empire. Above all there was the constant threat of 
that pinchbeck emperor, Napoleon III. Palmerston had the 
most vivid memories of the imperial uncle who had given this 
usurper his power and his name. He still remembered the 
time when, as a Cambridge student, he had drilled daily with 
his fellows as preparedness against the expected invasion ; he 
was thirty-one when the Battle of Waterloo was fought, and, 
as Secretary at War, had done his part in equipping Welling 
ton's army. This Napoleonic era had left Palmerston with an 
implacable distrust of everything French. He turned an icy 
shoulder against the efforts of Napoleon III to enlist his 
cooperation in the Maximilian folly in Mexico. The mere 
fact that Napoleon wished to entice England into a joint in 
tervention in the American Civil War was itself a sufficient 
reason, in Palmerston's mind, why England should refrain. 

Indeed, to find a parallel to the conservative attitude toward 
France in I860, we must go to the British feeling toward the 


German Kaiser from 1900 to 1914. The parallel is almost 
exact. The prime necessity of Napoleon's being, as of the 
Kaiser's, was aggression. Every day Napoleon was increasing 
his armament. He was building a fleet that, in armor clads, was 
growing more powerful than Great Britain's. He was hourly 
drawing closer to Russia, England's historic enemy. He was 
seeking an alliance again the Kaiser repeated this exploit 
with the Sultan. The Napoleonic plan, Englishmen believed, 
was the establishment of a new Prankish empire in the east; a 
foreshadowing of the future Drang nach Osten. Napoleon's 
work for Italian unity aroused suspicion; when finally com 
pleted, so it was believed, a Bonapartist king would be placed 
on the Italian throne. That Suez Canal, then being constructed 
by the French, was manifestly aimed at the British Empire in 
India. Above all, the fear of invasion disturbed Palmerston 
in 1861, as it had in the days of the great Napoleon. Much is 
heard to-day of aircraft as having deprived England of its ad 
vantage as an island. The same talk was voluble in the fifties 
and sixties about steam. The new steamship had made Eng 
land an easy victim of attack from the Continent. "Steam 
has bridged the channel," said Sidney Herbert. In a couple of 
hours a fleet of side-paddlers could spring from French harbors 
and land on the British coast quite a different problem 
from an approach by sailing ships, subject to caprices of wind 
and tide. Endless rumors reached Palmerston's ears of Napo 
leon's flotilla of flat-bottomed boats, which could have been 
constructed for only one purpose the invasion of England. 


War with the United States would have meant the despatch 
ing of a considerable part of Britain's fleet across the Atlantic 
and leaving her sacred soil naked to a multitude of enemies. 
Palmerston, whose mainspring was the protection of his own 


country, was not the man to run such unnecessary risk. Lord 
John Russell was similarly reluctant. And America was pe 
culiarly Lord John's problem. His memories, like his col 
league's, encompassed the first Napoleon; indeed, one of his 
most lively anecdotes was the description of a visit that he 
had made, as a young man of twenty-two, to Napoleon in 
exile on Elba. This recollection shows how much Lord John 
was a part of the old England. He had met most of the notabil 
ities, literary, political, and social, of the Napoleonic time; he 
knew Byron, was one of the few permitted to read that 
poet's subsequently incinerated Memoirs, Walter Scott, and 
was the close friend of Tom Moore. In politics Russell's own 
career illustrates, as did Palmerston's, the extent to which op 
portunities, in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, went 
by favor and privilege. Any son of the Duke of Bedford, in 
1813, had merely to desire to add a seat in the House of 
Commons to his social and literary diversions; an obsequious 
borough this one, of Tavistock, a family possession duti 
fully sent the young man, not quite twenty-one, to West 
minster. Despite his aristocratic introduction, this "formal, 
bloodless, fishy little man" presently became a popular hero. 
The Russells had always been Whigs, and naturally the latest 
sprig aligned himself with that party; but this traditional 
Whiggery quickly assumed, in young Russell's hands, a danger 
ous approach to Liberalism. His speech on the Reform Bill, 
in 1831, brought the little man world-wide fame. Its aura 
never left him. His attitude was important in the present con 
nection, for, in addition to his other liberal tendencies, Little 
John cherished an admiration for America. As time went orf, 
his zeal for democracy considerably cooled; but his friendliness 
to its foremost exponent still flickered feebly. His nature had 
withstood more successfully than Palmerston's Britain's many 
diplomatic conflicts with the lusty American Republic; in 1861, 
he was generally regarded as one of the few aristocrats who 
wished well tp the Federal cause though, like all the British 


world, he looked upon it as hopeless. Personally, he was fa 
mous for his genial manners with his social equals and his dis 
tant, haughty treatment of the rest of the world; for his 
sharp and witty tongue, frequently exercised against low-born 
intruders in the British Parliament; for a mighty independence 
of thought and behavior, sometimes shown, as indicated above, 
to royalty itself. His daring and self-confidence has passed into 
a proverb. "I believe Lord John Russell," said Sydney Smith, 
"would perform the operation for the stone, build St. Peter's, 
or assume with or without ten minutes' notice the com 
mand of the Channel fleet." The man's personal appearance 
hardly suggested such masterful qualities, though a discrimi 
nating American observer found him not without distinction. 
Charles Sumner got a good view of Russell one day in 1838 
from the floor of the House of Commons. "In person diminu 
tive and rickety," he wrote, u he reminded me of a pettifogging 
attorney who lives near Letchmere Point. He wriggled around, 
played with his hat, and seemed unable to dispose of his hands 
and feet; his voice was small and thin, but, notwithstanding 
all this, a house of five hundred members was hushed to catch 
his smallest accent. You listened and you felt that you heard a 
man of mind and of moral elevation." x 

There were only two things, it is said, for which Lord John 
had any respect: high birth and great intellect. He greatly 
admired two contemporaries of lowly origin, John Bright 
and Charles Dickens, and, when proposed for the Lord Rector 
ship of Glasgow University, withdrew his name, because 
Wordsworth was the opposing candidate. Whether he re 
garded his latest diplomatic problem, James Murray Mason of 
Virginia, as falling within either of these classifications, is not 
disclosed. He never gave utterance to any admiration and 
treated that envoy in a manner that roused to fury all his 
Virginian pride. His personal relations with Mason is a story 
that is quickly told. It is the Yancey episode over again. The 

1 Memoir and Letters of Charles Sumner, by Edward L. Pierce, Vol. II, p. 316. 


attention Mason received from British officialdom was pre 
cisely the one forecast by the Times editorial. Lord Palmer- 
ston gave Mason no interview until two years after he had 
ceased to represent the Confederate Government; Lord John, 
following the established custom in such situations, received 
him only once. As in the case of Yancey this meeting took 
place, not in the Foreign Office, but in RusselPs London home 
in Chesham Place. The conversation, lasting an hour or so, was 
a somewhat constrained experience for both men. Physically 
they were symbolic types one embodying the stiff conserva 
tism of an ancient land, the other just as proudly upholding 
the eighteenth-century standards of a new world. In personal 
bearing, Mason must have had the advantage. The large- 
framed Virginian, with the finely shaped head, made rather 
insignificant the minute Englishman, clad sombrely in a black 
coat and a black stock, sitting stiffly with his arms crossed, 
one leg thrown over the other, his head, closely adjusted to 
the body, leaning forward to catch fully the unfamiliar South 
ern accents. Henry Adams writes that Lord Russell bore "a 
droll resemblance to John Quincy Adams," his grandfather, 
and there was indeed something in this aging funereal figure, 
with his wizened face, pointed and protruding nose, high, 
slanting, partially bald forehead, his cold, unfriendly pale blue 
eyes, that suggested not only the physical attributes of the 
famous New England clan but its acrid disposition. Lord 
Russell, in interviews of this time, was seldom at ease. Dudley 
Mann, who had gone through the harrowing experience a few 
months before, found the great statesman about as approach 
able as an iceberg, and he also reechoed Sumner's impressions 
of his lack of quietude. "The Earl was as restless as if he had 
been seated upon a cushion of thorns. ... In the interest of 
long cherished prejudices, perhaps, he seemed determined not 
to be convinced." 

Almost the first words Russell spoke were disconcerting. 
After the preliminary greeting, Mason reached for a docu- 


ment he had brought, saying that he would like to read to the 
Foreign Secretary his credentials as Commissioner of the 
Confederate States to Great Britain. 

"That is unnecessary," replied his Lordship, "since our rela 
tions are unofficial." 

However, he did patiently listen while Mason read part of 
his instructions. This document was an exceedingly lengthy 
one, going deeply into the merits of the dispute, setting 
forth the classic Southern view of State rights, meticulously 
explaining that Secession was not Rebellion, and that the 
Confederacy was therefore a legally established independent 
nation, which Great Britain could recognize without com 
mitting a hostile act against the Federal Government. Only 
those paragraphs of this dissertation referring to recognition 
and the illegality of the blockade were read to the impassive 
Briton. At the conclusion, silence reigned again. Mason re 
sumed the conversation in fact, he was forced to do prac 
tically all the talking enlarging on the valiant spirit of the 
Southern people in their determination never to unite again 
with the North, and the certainty of their success. At this 
Russell showed a little interest. How about Kentucky and 
Missouri and Tennessee? he asked. Apparently he knew 
enough about what was going on to understand that the 
border states were the crux of the problem. These three 
states, replied Mason, were now members of the Southern 
Confederation. This was the usual Southern contention of the 
time certain forces in Kentucky and Missouri having gone 
through the form of joining the Davis Government. How 
about the alienation of northwestern Virginia ? asked Russell. 
The people of those counties had recently withdrawn from 
the old Dominion and organized the state of West Virginia. 

"The pretense of a separate state there," replied Mason, 
"is an empty pageant. It is credited by the government at 
Washington, and by it alone, for purposes of delusion." 

This about completed the interview. The record when read 


to-day intimates no warmth on Russell's part, but the ex 
perience was not so disheartening as Mason had anticipated. 
"I had been told on all hands," he reported to Benjamin, "that 
his usual manner was cold and repulsive, yet I did not find it 
so." "He received me in a civil and kind manner." Still Mason 
drew no encouragement from the meeting. "On the whole it 
was manifest enough that his personal sympathies were not 
with us," Earl Russell seemed utterly disinclined to enter into 
conversation at all as to the policy of his government, and only 
said in substance that they must wait events. At the close he 
hoped that Mason would find his residence in London "agree 
able," but expressed no desire to see him again. In fact, he 
never did. This audience comprised all the personal intercourse 
that took place between the two men. Mason makes the best 
of it in his despatch to the State Department, but this disin 
clination to treat him with respect, combined with the studied 
disregard that ensued, made Russell the chief object of his 
hatred. We must not forget that he was a Mason of Virginia, 
always treated from birth as one of the elect; not only the 
welfare of his new country was injured, but he personally was 
assailed in that spot, which, from the beginning, had been the 
most sensitive one, his pride. From now on Mason's despatches 
disclose the bitterest comment on Russell, whom he regarded 
as the greatest enemy of the South. When his Lordship, in 
his occasional references to the new Government, insisted on 
describing it as "the so-called Confederate states" and Mason 
himself as a "pseudo-Commissioner," the English statesman 
became a more odious figure in Mason's eyes than Charles 
Sumner himself. 


But Mason found consolation elsewhere. "In London so 
ciety," wrote Henry Adams, "he counted for one eccentric 
more," and all the Adams tribe take delight in picturing what 


they regarded as his awkwardness, his mistakes, and the 
general neglect in which he was held. Adams and his son 'give 
instances of Mason's breaks with convention. In the course of 
a debate in the House of Commons, the Confederate envoy, 
occupying a preferred seat, began to cry "Hear! Hear!" thus 
Infringing the agelong law prohibiting spectators in that 
august chamber from applauding. Charles Francis Adams re 
ports, with understandable glee, that Mason at one famous 
dinner party entertained the guests by describing how, at the 
very moment he was talking, General Lee had captured Wash 
ington and Baltimore the moment in question being several 
days after the battle of Gettysburg. These anecdotes do not 
tell the whole story. The fact remains that Mason did receive 
much social attention in England, and that a majority of 
Members of Parliament, and almost all the propertied and 
upper social classes, sympathized with his cause. And they 
made a good deal of him. He was a frequent guest at the 
big houses in London not, of course, those identified with 
the Government; and at many of the most pretentious country 
homes his position was an agreeable one. He did not grace 
Lady Palmerston's famous receptions, and not a single member 
of the Ministry, he wrote Mrs. Mason, had expressed the 
slightest desire of forming his acquaintance, but he had many 
charming, aristocratic friends. The Anglican Church was pro 
fuse in attention. A really impressive list of notables flits across 
the pages of his correspondence. There were dinners at 
Stafford House with the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland, 
and visits to Bedgebury Park, the seat of Beresford-Hope, 
Member of Parliament for Cambridge University, one of the 
richest and most powerful men in England, an extremist in 
Toryism and opposition to popular rule. The Marquis of Bath 
freely extended the hospitality of Longleat. Mason dined re 
peatedly with Lord Donoughmore, President of the Board of 
Trade in the late Derby Government. Lord Malmesbury, 
Foreign Secretary in the same Administration, showed him un- 


remitting kindness and sympathy. Lord Robert Cecil, after 
ward, as Marquis of Salisbury, Prime Minister of England; 
Lord Eustace Cecil; Lord Campbell; Sir Coutts Lindsay 
such are only a few of the lofty British names of the day who 
treated Mason with consideration, and frequently with hos 
pitality. That he reveled in associations of this kind is plain. 
"I have been kindly received by society in London,*' he writes 
soon after arrival. He likes to note "the courtesies received 
from ladies most distinguished by their rank and their position 
in society." Mason pays British country life the highest compli 
ment at his disposal. The "best in England'* constantly calls 
to mind the "best in Virginia/ 1 His letters to his wife in 
particular are replete with such comparisons. "I have found 
the larger portion of the elite but the best type of our Virginia 
circles." He spends the Christmas holidays at a well-known 
English country house. "I found their Christmas usages very 
much like those on the island or at Claremont, according to my 
early recollections of the better days in the Old Dominion"; 
the "island," of course, was that Analostan in the Potomac 
where he had spent his childhood. Occasionally a jarring note 
interrupted this idyl. Richard Cobden entertained Mason at 
breakfast, and spent most of the time expressing his strong 
sympathy with the North, Even Mason's aristocratic devotees 
would now and then ask questions about the Fugitive Slave 
Law. They had not forgotten Mrs. Beecher Stowe's harrow 
ing descriptions of Eliza on the ice, and could not quite see in 
this kindly Virginian the author of the law that had made such 
cruelties legal. The most knowing also insisted that Mason tell 
them all about Dred Scott. Whenever the question of slavery 
came up as it insistently did Mason brushed it aside 
with the statement that it was something only a Southerner 
could understand and that the fate of the black men could be 
safely left in the hands of a people so warm-hearted and civi 
lized as that of the Southern States. 

Less distinguished folk Members of Parliament and the 


like used to crowd Mason's headquarters, first at Fenton's 
Hotel, St. James's, and afterward in his home on Upper Sey 
mour Street. Here he held almost daily levees, unfolding to 
his guests the true facts about the Confederacy, its present 
and its future. He has himself preserved little digests of these 
talks, which have historic value to-day as picturing the ter 
ritorial ambitions of his country. Thus the empire of Jefferson 
Davis, as Mason described it, always consisted of thirteen 
states; it embraced Kentucky and Missouri; long after these 
commonwealths had been definitely won for the Union, Mason 
pictured them as loyal members of the Richmond Govern 
ment, Perhaps the reminiscent aspect of that sacred num 
ber thirteen made Mason so tenacious on this point. 
And the Confederacy was to have territories also. He liked 
to point on his map to the region acquired in the Mexican 
War. No treaty of peace would be signed with the United 
States, Mason informed his auditors, that did not assign New 
Mexico to the Confederacy. New Mexico was the domain 
out of which the present state of that name, as well as Ari 
zona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado, have been 
carved. The end of the war, Mason declared, would see the 
Confederacy with a larger area than that of the United States, 
and the time was not far distant when it would have a larger 


All this was very well, but, after all, the Confederate envoy 
had come to London for a fixed purpose. That purpose 
had changed somewhat from the one which had prompted 
the Yancey mission. If we read Secretary Hunter's instruc 
tions to Yancey, Rost, and Mann, it will appear that recog 
nition of Southern independence was the point on which em 
phasis was laid. As the Federal blockade had not then been 


declared, naturally not much was said on this point. And 
Yancey, all during the futile ten months he spent in England, 
made his plea chiefly for recognition. Under the new Secre 
tary of State, however, the blockade became the chief object 
of Mason's abjurations. By March and April of 1862, the 
Southern mind had changed on this question. For the first 
year, as already explained, the South almost welcomed the 
Lincoln interdict on shipping to Southern ports; it was re 
garded as a kind of auxiliary to the Davis embargo. It served 
the South in preventing the export of cotton and so aided in 
precipitating that cotton famine which would compel Eng 
land to intervene. Mr. Davis and Mr. Benjamin had re 
covered from that folly. They now saw that the sale of 
cotton In Europe was the one way of preserving the economic 
structure of the South and of assuring the sinews for waging 
its war. The Confederacy presently became as desirous of 
moving cotton to Europe as it had previously been reluctant. 
But this decision, as so many Southern decisions, came too 
late. Precious years had been lost. Meanwhile the "Yankee 
blockade" had stiffened. From May, 1861, to April, 1862, 
the blockade had been so ineffective that merchant ships, in 
almost any number, could have gone through it like a sieve. 
After that date the cordon of Federal ships, though by no 
means impregnable, offered fewer loopholes. And now its de 
struction seemed indispensable to Confederate success. Almost 
the first letter Secretary Benjamin sent to Mason insisted 
that he bring this matter to the attention of Lord John Rus 
sell. The Lincoln interdict, as established, he argued and 
argued ably was illegal; it contravened established inter 
national law and specific treaties; England should so declare 
and proceed to disregard it. In a later instruction Benjamin 
described not inaccurately the so-called blockade u as a 
predatory cruise against the commerce of Europe on 3,000 
miles of our coast by the ships of the United States under 
pretense of a blockade of our ports." 


On the basis of facts and of law, Benjamin had the best of 
this debate. The Declaration of Paris, to which Great Britain 
and the United States subscribed, had declared that a block 
ade, to be respected, must be "effective." What did "effective" 
mean? There seemed little difficulty; British jurists had them 
selves succinctly explained the significance of the term. The 
definition given by Lord Stowell, the great British admiralty 
judge, had become the accepted one. "A blockade de facto 
should be effected by stationing a number of ships, and effect 
ing, as it were, an arc of circumvallation round the mouth of 
the prohibited port, where, if the arc fail in any one part, the 
blockade itself fails altogether." Of course the Federal Navy 
held no Southern port beleaguered in this stone-wall fashion. 
Neutral ships were slipping in or out all the time. Yet Rus 
sell persisted in regarding this blockade as a legal one. He 
not only shoved aside the doctrines of great British admiralty 
experts, but invented a new, previously unheard-of principle 
of his own. Quietly, frigidly, without consulting one of the 
seven powers that had accepted the Declaration of Paris, 
he proceeded to amend that solemn instrument. That Declara 
tion had asserted that * 'blockades, in order to be binding, must 
be effective, that is to say, maintained by a force sufficient 
really to prevent access to the coast of the enemy." But Rus 
sell, though ostensibly maintaining allegiance to this principle, 
now inserted a clause, of his own manufacture, which com 
pletely negatived this restriction. A blockade had closed a 
port, and was therefore "effective," if, he asserted, the enemy 
power had stationed at the entrance u a sufficient number of 
ships" u to prevent access to it, or to create an evident danger 
of entering it or leaving it." That is, a port should be con 
sidered closed, when entering it or leaving it was a risky busi 
ness. Those who denounced most vigorously the inadequacy 
and therefore illegality of Mr. Lincoln's measure did not deny 
that any vessel defying it ran "the danger" of capture. The 
mere existence of such a danger. Lord John Russell stoically 


maintained, made the blockade one which all neutrals must 
recognize as effective and binding. Nothing like this had ever 
been heard before. 

Nor did Russell stop here in meeting the wishes of the Fed* 
eral Government. The American Navy, Benjamin angrily 
pointed out, was blockading not only enemy, but neutral ports 
as well. It stationed warships at the mouth of the Rio Grande 
and seized English ships and cargoes consigned to Mexican 
p 0r ts especially Matamoros. It kept vigilance off Nassau, 
in the Bahamas, and similarly seized British vessels attempt 
ing to negotiate that harbor. The reason for this stretch of 
international law, Mr. Seward explained, was that the cargoes 
so taken consisted of guns, ammunition, and other warlike 
stores intended for the Confederate Army. As to the truth 
of this statement there was no dissent. American admiralty 
lawyers, as ingenious as the British, invented a new principle 
of their own. This was the now world-famous one of "con 
tinuous voyage" and "ultimate destination." When a cargo 
of contraband, sailing ostensibly from one neutral port to 
another, had, as its "ultimate destination," the armed forces 
of an enemy, it was subject to seizure. As quickly as these 
"neutral" firearms were landed in the Bahamas, they were 
at once transshipped to a Confederate port everybody 
knew that; the whole proceeding, from a British harbor 
to the Confederate Army, made up a single "continuous 
voyage" and was therefore in danger of interception. Again 
Earl Russell obediently accepted this American contention. 
He sat quietly and made no protest while British shipload 
after British shipload engaged in such a "continuous voyage" 
was seized by American cruisers, and consigned to the prize 


Mason engaged in a fusillade of objections to these inno 
vations. His protests were met with silent contempt. When 
he asked for an interview with Lord Russell, that gentleman 
"presented his compliments," but thought that no advantage 


would accrue from a meeting. When Mason bombarded his 
lordship with statistics showing the extent to which the block 
ade was "ineffective" that statesman again "presented his 
compliments" and found the material "very interesting." That 
the unsolicited information bored him was not concealed, and 
he finally ended the discussion by a cruel blow. He ceased to 
acknowledge Mason's letters, but had his undersecretary, 
Layard, do so. This was a subtle snub. By this procedure 
Russell intimated to Mason that, as a Commissioner who had 
never been received, he had no right to address communica 
tions to Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for For 
eign Affairs. Mason took the hint and desisted though not 

What was the reason for this British acquiescence in Yankee 
pretension, this "cowardice," as Benjamin called it, "this mor 
bid fear of offending" Uncle Sam? There was a more sub 
stantial explanation than these excited phrases imply. Russell 
was an historic British statesman, and, like others of his 
breed, saw in British policy not an improvisation to meet a 
particular crisis but a set of principles that were to endure 
for all time. He was thinking not only of the existing Ameri 
can war, but of future conflicts in which England itself might 
be engaged. And he accepted the new rules of blockade intro 
duced by the United States not because he was overfriendly 
to that nation and not because he feared American anger, but 
because they were the principles Britain wished to see en 
shrined as international law. The Declaration of Paris, though 
accepted perforce by Great Britain, had always been ex 
ceedingly unpopular with gentlemen whose chief interest was 
the greatness of the British Empire. That Declaration, they 
believed, had robbed Great Britain of the most powerful 
engine it possessed for protecting England's destiny the 
British fleet. To weaken Britain in maritime warfare had in 
deed been the purpose of the Continental statesmen who had 
at length succeeded in foisting it upon their great rival. Rus- 


sell, in 1862, was looking forward to a possible, even probable 
war with some European enemy; he, like Palmerston, had the 
aggression of France constantly before his eyes. The Paris 
rules of blockade would interfere with England's effective 
use of its fleet in such a contest. Any blockade it would de 
clare would necessarily be a loose one, like Uncle Abraham's; 
the British fleet could no more blockade the whole coast 
of France Atlantic and Mediterranean than could 
the American Navy the 3,000 miles of Confederate coast 

That is, the British fleet would be hopelessly shackled, if 
compelled, in a European contest, to observe the rules laid 
down by the Treaty of Paris. How to reduce this instrument 
to a dead letter had long been the preoccupation of British 
statesmen. Uncle Sam now providentially showed the way. 
Though itself a party to the unpopular Declaration, the 
Federal Government serenely ignored it, and established the 
kind of naval warfare best adapted to the pending problem. 
The British Government secretly rejoiced at this turn of affairs. 
Lord Russell saw in it that thing most precious to the British 
mind a "precedent." If acquiesced in by the European 
powers it would become valid international law and, to all 
intents and purposes, repeal the Declaration of 1856. Russell 
therefore paid no attention to Mason's protests or to the care 
fully reasoned arguments of Benjamin though doubtless he 
recognized these as able lawyers' briefs and, from a strictly 
legal standpoint, unassailable. He quietly accepted the Federal 
blockade, and all Europe, by following the British example, 
gave it their approval. The only Englishmen who complained 
were the British merchants whose cargoes Uncle Sam sum 
marily seized and confiscated. But their complaints did not 
disturb the Foreign Office. They were not to be pitied es 
pecially after all. They were mostly munitions profiteers on a 
huge scale; they were doing so thriving a business with the 
North and so many of their vessels destined to the South 


slipped through the blockade that the balance in their favor 
was enormous. An occasional loss of a British ship was a small 
price to pay for establishing new principles of sea warfare 
indispensable to the future of Britain. 

The London Times, in the course of the excitement, let the 
cat out of the bag. "You will see," wrote Henry Hotze to 
Benjamin, September 5, 1863, that "the Times, with character 
istic duplicity, while summing up against the Federals, always 
concludes with the broad hint that the northern interpretation 
of all these maritime questions is one which England is in 
terested to see pass into a precedent." British policy looks a 
long way ahead, and not until the outbreak of the Great War, 
in 1914, did Britain reap the full fruits of "Johnny Russell's" 
foresight in 1861-1865. But then it reaped them to the full. 
The interdict on German ports laid in that conflict was con 
structed on the American model of 1861. Lord StowelPs 
description, his "arc of circumvallation," never showed its 
head. The ghost of Lord John, if it hovered over the British 
performance of 1914, must have smiled with satisfaction at 
the silent pigeonholing of James Mason's protests fifty years 
before. For Britain, in 1914, made no attempt to station "arcs 
of circumvallation" before German ports; its so-called blockade 
became, to quote again Judah P. Benjamin's vivid description 
of the Federal one, "a predatory cruise" against the commerce 
of the world. Britain in 19141918 seized neutral ships on the 
high seas, just as the Americans had done in 1861, and con 
ducted them into her own waters for search and adjudication. 
And, just as the United States, in 1 861-1865, laid violent hands 
on neutral cargoes bound for Nassau and Mexico, when the 
"ultimate destination" was indubitably the Confederate States, 
so England, in 1914-1918, intercepted American ships, whose 
cargoes were officially consigned to Holland, Denmark, and 
Sweden, but in reality were bound for Germany. When Am 
bassador Walter Page, in obedience to instructions, protested 
such captures, Sir Edward Grey smilingly pointed to the 


American practice in the Civil War. 2 The lesson America 
had taught her Britain was now putting to use. The principles 
upon which the British Navy was acting, he said, were those 
established by the admiralty courts of the United States. 
The United States Supreme Court was the final authority ac 
cording to which Britain was regulating its warfare on Ger 
man commerce I This logic left the American State Depart 
ment helpless, for such was the fact. And when the United 
States entered the Great War, it acted upon its own precedent 
with a thoroughness that even its British ally hardly presumed 
to emulate. 


Any notion that Russell's approval of the Federal blockade 
was an expression of friendship for the North receives a severe 
shock when we view his American attitude in the late summer 
and fall of 1862. Those months from August to November 
represented the only period when the Confederate Govern 
ment made a near approach to European recognition. And 
the leader in this new British attitude was Lord John Russell. 
Just what were his real motives in these tortuous negotiations 
has been the subject of much discussion. Charles Francis 
Adams, the American Minister, went to his grave with a kindly 
feeling for Lord John ; he regarded him as an honest man and, 
at bottom, a friend to the Northern cause. Mason and all 
Southern agents intensely hated this impassive aristocrat, for 
the same reason that Adams liked him. It was their belief that 
the British Foreign Minister was constantly contriving dark 
plots against the South. Henry Adams echoed, for many years 
after his father's death, the same friendly sentiments. But 
all the fury of Henry Adams's nature was aroused by the 
publication of Spencer Walpole's Life of Lord John Russell 

2 See Lije and Letters of Walter H. Page, Vol. II, Chap. XV. 


in 1889. This made clear a hitherto unknown fact: that Lord 
John Russell was the prime mover for recognition of Southern 
independence in August November, 1862. Letters of Russell 
to Palmerston published in this work left no doubt about the 
matter. More recently, the papers of Gladstone and Palmer 
ston, made available to American historians, have added a 
multitude of details. 3 An interesting result of these disclosures 
is that they completely reverse the parts which Palmerston and 
Russell, in the American mind, had played in this momentous 
crisis. For many years after the Civil War it was generally 
believed that Palmerston was the pitiless enemy of America 
and that Russell was an influence steadily holding him in check. 
The facts were exactly the opposite. Russell was, at the time in 
question, the force working steadily for a European coalition 
in favor of the South; Palmerston was the moderating voice, 
holding Russell in restraint and finally wrecking his plans. 

No man was more startled and disillusioned by this dis 
covery than Henry Adams, son and private secretary of the 
American Minister. His Education records the bitterness 
against Lord John produced by this revelation of that states 
man's calculated "villainy." Adams completely reconstructed 
his views of Russell; instead of the distant diplomat, favorable 
on the whole to the North, we now have a portrait of a cold 
blooded Foreign Secretary working for three years for the 
destruction of the Federal Union, Every act of this insidious 
foe, Henry Adams insisted, fitted into a consistent programme. 
From the first days of Secession, Lord John had seen in the 
American war England's great chance. The future of his 
country demanded that America's progress should be checked. 
Russell, according to this analysis, laid the basis of this policy 
when he recognized the belligerency of the Confederate States 
in May, 1861. His frustrated effort to use the Trent affair as a 
casus belli in January, 1862, was another manifestation of the 

3 For example, see Great Britain and the American Civil War, by Ephraim D. Adams, 
and The Life of Lord Palmerston, by Herbert C. F* Bell. 


same desire. The escape of the Confederate cruisers es 
pecially of "No. 290," the Alabama clearly was another 
item in the general plot. Finally came those secret proceedings 
of the late summer and autumn of 1862, when Russell con 
ducted a vigorous campaign in the Cabinet for the recognition 
of Southern independence. What particularly enraged Henry 
Adams, as he surveyed in retrospect these hostile moves, was 
Russell's duplicity. Adams uses a more specific word. All Eng 
lish statesmen of the time, Adams insists, were irreclaimable 
"liars," but in this brilliant constellation of mendacity Lord 
John Russell shone with a glory all his own. In secret the 
Foreign Secretary was working upon his colleagues in behalf of 
Jefferson Davis, but, at the same moment, was displaying the 
most friendly and neutral face to Adams's father, the Ameri 
can Minister. Alarmed at Gladstone's fatuous speech, that 
Jefferson Davis "had made a nation," the senior Adams rushed 
to the Foreign Office for explanations. Russell assured him that 
that oration was not to be taken as signifying any change in 
British policy. The Government intended to maintain in 
definitely its policy of neutrality. The intense animosity Henry 
Adams ever afterward felt for England was explained, in con 
siderable part, by the deceit with which Lord John Russell 
had abused his father's confidence. 

Another Adams, not of the same family, Ephraim D., 
the leading authority on British-American diplomacy in the 
Civil War, does not think that Russell's motive in all this 
double-dealing was a desire to destroy the United States. Of 
the deception there can be no question; the record speaks for 
itself. Professor Adams insists that Russell's "sympathies were 
unquestionably with the North," while Palmerston's were just 
as emphatically with the South. But Russell, from the firing of 
the first gun, looked upon the American Union as a thing of 
the past. In 1862 it was, he sincerely believed, definitely extinct. 
England would presently be called upon to recognize Southern 
independence; the facts of the situation, irrespective of right 


or wrong, or of one's sympathies in the contest, would, he be 
lieved, compel such recognition. To bring the struggle to a close 
as quickly as possible and end the useless shedding of blood, 
as well as to end the suffering in England directly caused by it, 
was, in Russell's mind, his chief duty as a statesman. There is 
no need of going into his lordship's moral considerations in 
this place. In fact, the long and tangled story of British policy 
in 1862 has no part in any description of the diplomatic ac 
tivities of James Murray Mason. For Mason cut no figure in 
these transactions. Had he never crossed the ocean, the history 
of that summer and fall would have been the same. Russell 
naturally for the Commissioner had no official status did 
not consult the Confederate envoy and Mason's correspondence 
shows that he did not have the slightest inkling of what was 
going on. In his attitude during this most hopeful period in 
the history of the Confederacy the one time, indeed, in 
which it approached a successful outcome as well as in that 
of Henry Hotze, his "publicity agent," editor of the Index, 
the Confederate organ in London, there is a good deal of 
humor. For it was this juncture that the Southern envoys 
selected for a vitriolic attack on Lord John Russell, completely 
ignorant of the fact that that statesman was working day and 
night for Confederate success. 

That Mason should have gone astray is not surprising, for 
he was not a keen observer, and his attitude toward Russell 
was warped by that statesman's refusal to treat him "civilly" 
the word is Mason's own. Henry Hotze, the Confed 
erate press agent in London, was a much shrewder man. Yet 
Hotze was as ignorant of Cabinet workings as Mason him 
self. His hatred of Russell was just as intense. In his letters to 
Benjamin, Hotze seldom refers to Russell except in hostile 
terms. "There are but two men of weight in both houses of 
Parliament," so Hotze wrote in one of his communications, 
"who are our declared foes, Earl Russell, who has lately 
made himself the apologist of the Federal government in 


the House of Lords,* and Mr. Bright in the Commons, who, 
I am happy to say, represents or leads no party but himself." 
Hotze kept on in this strain, even in that period when Russell 
was leading the pro-Confederate bloc in the British Cabinet. 
For several months Hotze confined these uncomplimentary 
views to his personal correspondence, but in the fall of 1862 
he launched an open press campaign against the statesman who 
was then almost his only friend. "You will see from the editorial 
columns of the Index" Hotze writes Benjamin, October 24, 
1862, "that I feel myself strong enough to attack the Cabinet, 
though I have not ventured upon doing so since the paper was 
established, despite the urgent advice of Mr. Slidell, and less 
important counsellors. The same prudential motives which 
then restrained me no longer exist, and I shall continue the 
attacks without fear of prejudicing our cause with the public 
at large." If Earl Russell had the habit of reading the Index, 
some of its comments at this time must have tickled his sense 
of humor. For he is here pictured as the foe of the Confederacy, 
struggling against its recognition by Great Britain ! Russell's 
action in this crisis, so said the Index, had made him "the 
laughing-stock of Europe." "The nominal control of foreign 
affairs is in the hands of a diplomatic Malaprop, who has 
never shown vigor, activity or determination, except where 
the display of these qualities was singularly unneeded, or even 
worse than useless." Of course, to a realistic, unruffled diplomat 
like Russell denunciations of this kind had no effect one way 
or the other. Whatever Confederate agents might say or do 
had no bearing upon his problem. That problem was one 
exclusively of Britain's interests, and Britain's position in the 

Russell, finally, in December, 1862, abandoned his efforts at 
mediation, recognition, or an armistice for, at several times, 
his efforts assumed these several guises and abandoned 

*Lord John had recently become an earl and transferred hlnwelf t<? the hereditary 


them, it proved, for ever. As a politician, he discovered that 
persistence in this policy would cause the break-up of his 
Cabinet and the fall of his Ministry. Out of its fifteen members 
only three, it appeared, favored mediation or recognition 
Lord Russell himself, Lord Westbury, and that unaccountable 
combination of idealism and practicality, William Ewart 
Gladstone the one inveterate and persistent advocate of the 
recognition of that "nation" which he thought Jefferson Davis 
had created. So far as Great Britain was concerned, the move 
ment for recognition was dead. From other sources it still re 
mained alive. And that concerns the story of John Slidell. 




ONE grievance rested heavily on the proud Virginian spirit of 
James Murray Mason. That was the high consideration shown 
Slidell in Paris compared with the indifference accorded him 
in London. "I see and hear nothing from the British govern 
ment, officially or unofficially," Mason wrote Benjamin, No 
vember 7, 1862, ten months after his arrival. "Mr. Slidell 
has an advantage over me in this, as he sees the ministers fre 
quently, as well as the Emperor. I have sometimes thought it 
might be due to the dignity of the government under such cir 
cumstances that I should terminate the mission here." x 

The contrast in the standing of the two men at their respec 
tive courts was startling indeed. While one chilly interview with 
Lord John Russell constituted Mason's relations with the Brit 
ish Government, Slidell saw constantly the French Foreign 
Ministers, first Thouvenel and afterward Drouyn de Lhuys, as 
well as the other entertaining characters who governed the 
Second Empire De Morny, Walewski, Persigny, Rouher, 
and the Emperor's private secretary and intimate friend, Jean 
Frangois Mocquard. One can imagine the rage that would 
have swept the United States had Queen Victoria received 
Mason at Buckingham Palace or Balmoral. Yet Napoleon III 
held lengthy and most cordial interviews with Slidell at the 
Tuileries, Saint-Cloud, Vichy, and Biarritz. At the latter place 
Slidell and his wife and daughters became members of the 
Imperial social set. The Empress not only treated the Con 
federate envoy with great courtesy, but showered attentions 
upon Mrs. Slidell and the Misses Matilda and Rosina. "I was 

1 Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Series U, Vol. 3, p. 607. 


invited, with my family, by the Empress to a ball at the 'Villa 
Eugenie' on the 7th," Slidell writes Benjamin from Biarritz, 
September 22, 1863. "We were most kindly received; the 
Empress conversed with me for nearly half an hour and 
expressed the warmest sympathy for our cause. I was surprised 
to find how thoroughly she was acquainted with the question, 
not only in its political aspects but with all the incidents of 
the war and the position of our armies. ... I mention these 
circumstances because I consider them as not without signifi 
cance in a political point of view, especially as the Empress is 
thought by those who have the best means of judging to exer 
cise no inconsiderable influence in public affairs." 2 

The gentleman so distinguished by the most beautiful and 
most powerful woman in Continental Europe had personal qual 
ifications, aside from his political status, entitling him to such 
honors. Slidell spoke French with reasonable fluency as well 
as Spanish, Eugenie's native tongue; he was a man of intelli 
gence, good manners, and handsome and imposing presence. 
Charles Francis Adams, hearing of the appointment, at once 
perceived his fitness for the Court of Napoleon III. "There 
he'll find a man of his own sort who'll be delighted to see him," 
Adams commented. The remark was not intended to compli 
ment either man. Neither the career of Louis Napoleon nor 
that of John Slidell had fulfilled those rigid standards of pri 
vate and public rectitude upheld by Puritan New England. Both 
men had led rather adventurous lives; both in politics were 
cynical opportunists: neither, in accomplishing his ends, had 
ever shown much squeamishness about methods. The impreca 
tions which Victor Hugo, from his exile in Jersey, was hurl 
ing at "Napoleon le petit" could be matched, on a smaller 
and less heroic scale, by the epithets that had followed Slidell 
in his progress from obscurity to political power. Even so 
practical a politician as Martin Van Buren had looked upon 
the youthful Slidell as a man who would bear watching. In 

2 Official Records of ike Unto* and Confederate Navitt, Series II, Vol. 3, p. 905. 


his political heyday opposition newspapers in New Orleans 
cried "Cataline" at his handsome figure, accusing him of politi 
cal ruffianism in every shape "Plaquemine frauds," "cab- 
votes," "Gallatin street assassinations and thuggery." The 
True Delta used to refer to "the vulpine eye of Houmas 
Slidell" an epithet that recalled the most famous of the 
political jobs with which his name had been connected. Henry 
S. Foote, Senator from Mississippi, stigmatized him as "John 
Slidell, well known in Louisiana for many years as a corrupt 
tamperer with popular elections in the interest of the Democ 
racy." Going further into details Foote depicted Slidell as a 
man of "vivacity of temperament, exceedingly astute and dex 
terous in dealing with men of all classes, and strongly suspected 
of being not over scrupulous in the use of means adapted to 
the attainment of his coveted objects. He conversed with 
ease and sprightliness, made no professions of special politi 
cal purity, evinced the utmost pertinacity in the pursuit of his 
various objects and often avowed in connection with public 
affairs, motives of action such as many politicians, if swayed 
by them, deem it expedient to conceal." * Murat Halstead, in 
his account of the Charleston Convention of 1860, describes 
Slidell as prepared to "buy up" all followers of Douglas whose 
political virtues could not resist cash arguments. It remained 
for the rigorous powers of Charles Sumner, as always, to cap 
these contemporary allusions. This characterization appeared 
in December, 1863, about the time that Slidell was basking 
in the smiles of Eugenie at Biarritz. "The present struggle 
is characteristically represented by John Slidell, whose great 
fame is from electioneering frauds to control a Presidential 
election; so that his character is fitly drawn when it is said 
that he thrust fraudulent votes into the ballot box, and whips 
into the hands of task-masters." 

Here, to the possibly jaundiced Northern mind, seemed to 
be a diplomat especially contrived by nature to deal with the 

8 Bench and Bar of the South and Southwest, by Henry S. Foote, p. 202. 


dictators of France the makers of coup d'etats, the suppres 
sors of liberty, and the disturbing meddlers in foreign affairs, 
who, with an illustrious name as their only stock in trade, had 
usurped the destinies of a great country. Yet had one of these 
critics dropped in on an Imperial party at Biarritz, the view 
of Mr. Slidell would hardly have suggested the evil fame he 
had left in America. All contemporary accounts pay tribute to 
his charm and dignity. A man of large stature, with strong, 
broad shoulders, a massive, finely-shaped cranium, enveloped 
in silky, snow-white hair, so thin that through it the top of his 
head, to quote Murat Halstead, "blushed like the shell of a 
boiled lobster"; symmetrically chiseled, well-placed features; 
eyes set closely together; a long, straight nose and small mouth, 
bearing just the trace of a smile; decisive chin, lofty, rectangu 
lar brow here there were few intimations of geniality or 
gentleness; the outward person rather emphasized SlidelFs 
description of himself as "a man of strong will, with some 
tact and discretion." Under It all there lay indications of re 
serve, possibly of ruthlessness ; one feels that this urbane pre 
sentment masks those more impassioned qualities that made 
Slidell, commonly the polished gentleman of the world, also 
the leader of political gangs. A portrait that survives of Slidell 
in his early days suggests these more aggressive, defiant attri 
butes. This picture reminds one of nothing so much as contem 
porary paintings of Lord Byron. There is the same erect, well- 
poised torso, the same challenging head, thrown backward, 
and Byron's chestnut, curly hair; the expression is not so scorn 
ful as that of his poetical counterpart, but it is full of deter 
mination and fire. It Is not surprising to discover certain ro 
mantic episodes in SlidelTs early life that harmonize with this 
youthful delineation. 

In origin, it Is true, Slidell could hardly be called a pattern 
of chivalry. The man stationed by the Confederate Government 
In Paris, to repeat there the feat of Benjamin Franklin eighty- 
five years before, entangle the French monarchy into al- 


liance with a revolutionary republic, had a beginning in life 
not unlike that of his famous predecessor. Like Poor Richard, 
Slidell was the son of a candlemaker. One evening, at a fash 
ionable dinner party in New York, after Slidell had attained 
fortune and some fame, a sprightly lady sitting next to him 
remarked, "You have been dipped, not moulded, into society." 
Other less witty but equally cutting jibes at the ancestral occu 
pation frequently found their way into public print. And it was 
all true. Anyone passing down lower Broadway, New York, 
in the first decade of the nineteenth century would have en 
countered a modest establishment at No. 50, over the door of 
which was displayed the sign, "John Slidell, soap-boiler and 
tallow chandler." This was the father of the future envoy. 
For the irreconcilable statesman of the South was, in origin, a 
New Yorker born in 1793, of a family that had been estab 
lished in that city for a considerable period. Scoville's Old 
Merchants of New York lists many Slidells, besides the one 
recorded above, all of them men of modest vocation ; they were 
tailors, measurers of grain, shoemakers. Their origin is not pre 
cisely known. When the most famous Slidell became a national 
figure, it was commonly said that the stock was originally Jew 
ish. Slidell's niece married the most prominent American Jew 
of the time, the great New York banker, August Belmont; his 
daughter as already recorded married another, Baron 
d'Erlanger, and all his life Slidell himself was the political and 
business intimate of Judah P. Benjamin; these facts perhaps 
explain a prevailing belief in this genealogy. On his mother's 
side Slidell certainly was not Jewish. She was a Mackenzie, 
descended from a Jacobite member of the famous Highland 
clan who emigrated to America after the battle of Culloden. 
That Slidell's father married into this highly placed New York 
family indicates a considerable rise in the social and business 
scale. That his sister married Matthew Calbraith Perry, who 
"opened" Japan, is evidence to the -same effect. 

The fact is that the elder Slidell, in addition to his tallow 


business, became president of the Mechanics Bank and of the 
Tradesmen's Insurance Company, and was sufficiently pros 
perous to give his son what few Slidells had ever had an 
academic education. He received his A.M. degree from Colum 
bia in 1810. Of Slidell's mercantile and professional career 
in New York little has been handed down. Despite his educa 
tion, he too became a tallow chandler, besides engaging in a 
commission business that came to grief in the War of 1812. 
The Jefferson embargo ruined Slidell, as it did countless others, 
yet this misfortune did not deter him, in his first venture in 
politics, from casting his fortunes on the Democratic side. 
Only his debts and a certain romantic episode remained in the 
memory of old New Yorkers as reminders of Slidell's adoles 
cent days. Strangely enough, his favorite boyhood friend in 
the old First Ward was that Charles Wilkes, who, half a 
century afterward, as commander of the San Jacinto, stopped 
the Trent j and, by seizing its conspicuous passengers, almost 
caused war between the United States and England. But 
Slidell and Wilkes had parted as enemies long before this, for 
they had quarreled over the affections of a girl of their neigh 
borhood. A few years later, Slidell had another similar adven 
ture of which the consequences were more portentous. The 
artistic glory of New York from 1800 to 1820 was the old 
Park Theatre. Here Slidell was a frequent attendant, inter 
ested not only in the plays but in one of the most popular ladies 
of the cast. In this romance again the adventurous young man 
met opposition this time in the person of the celebrated 
Stephen Price, manager of the Park- One morning on the 
city's outskirts the two rivals met at pistol point in the most 
approved Hamilton-Aaron Burr manner ; the theatrical man 
ager was seriously wounded, and this, as well as his multi 
tudinous debts, made desirable for Slidell a residence in some 
distant region. 

In the early nineteenth century one friendly paradise, above 
all others, opened its arms to young Northerners in need of 


rehabilitation. In this same place Judah P. Benjamin had found 
asylum after his unseemly departure from Yale. Edward Liv 
ingston, one of the idols of the youthful Slidell, had discov 
ered, in the emerging metropolis of New Orleans, the beginning 
of a new existence that ultimately made him Secretary of State 
and Minister to France. A lively rush of exuberant New York 
blades southwestward was an established phenomenon of the 
day. These young men all cultivated the same ambition: to 
practice law, plant sugar on the side, ascend the rungs of 
political fame, capping all by marriage with the inevitable 
"beautiful Creole." This prospect had already lured countless 
metropolitans to the mouth of the Mississippi and in 1819 
John Slidell, ruined financially, socially ostracized for duel 
ing, betook himself to this hospitable shore. And here he 
quickly realized all the most alluring promises of the enter 
prise professional success, fortune, political triumph, even 
the Creole bride. 


Of all the Yankees who sought this sanctuary from their 
more frigid natal soil, probably none underwent so complete 
a transformation as John Slidell. For mercurial natures like 
Benjamin, adaptation to new surroundings was not difficult; 
he started life as a Southerner, unaffected by the thoughts and 
mores of the North. The most successful of the emigres, 
Edward Livingston, never really joined his fortunes to those 
of Louisiana; he used the new home as a springboard to politi 
cal office, but, as soon as this ambition was achieved, content 
edly returned to his native New York, to die and be buried 
there. Slidell, more chameleonlike, quickly laid aside his old 
existence and became part and parcel of the new country. The 
French and "American" communities in New Orleans then 
held themselves distinct, both in geography and in spirit; Canal 


Street strictly divided the two allegiances: on one side lay 
the ancien regime, on the other the bustling, robustious, and 
as the old French residents superciliously believed vulgar 
new English-speaking generation. Slidell identified himself with 
the descendants of the era of Louis XV; in all important con 
cerns of life, he "went native." With his career in New Or 
leans came a new profession; in New York, while engaged 
unsuccessfully in commerce, he had studied law on the side; 
the requirements for admission to practice were not rigid, and 
soon this industrious exile accumulated a practice worth $10,- 
000 a year a large sum in those days. The prudential side 
of his character had apparently developed since his gusty New 
York days; for it was not until he had thus been solidly estab 
lished that he married. He was forty-two at the time 1835 ; 
his bride, barely twenty, was Mathilde Deslonde, daughter of 
one of the leading French families. Until her fifteenth year 
this girl knew no English ; all her ancestry was pure-blooded 
French; she was a devout Catholic, a feminine representative 
of that irreconcilable Gallic instinct which resisted the modern 
izing tendencies of the Anglo-Saxon. The new household that 
grew up in the Creole quarter and at Slidell's plantation was 
exclusively French. William H. Russell, who met the Slidells 
on the outbreak of war, was impressed by this foreign at 
mosphere. "In the evening I visited Mr. Slidell, whom I 
found at home with his family, Mrs. Slidell and her sister, 
Madame Beauregard, wife of the general, two very charming 
young ladies, daughters of the house, and a parlour full of 
fair companions. * . . The conversation, as is the case in 
most Creole domestic circumstances, was carried on in French. 51 
In one of his meetings with Napoleon III, Slidell pleased the 
Emperor by saying that the language of his Louisiana home 
was the Emperor's own and was able to give a description of 
French life on the lower Mississippi that at once put the two 
men on companionable grounds. 

Aad any Northern principles Slidell may have imbibed in 


his New York birthplace similarly disappeared. "Mr. Slidell," 
said Russell, "though born in a northern state, is perhaps one 
of the most determined disunionists in the southern Confed 
eracy." Thirty years before, President Andrew Jackson had 
stigmatized him on the same grounds. Significantly, this early 
reference emphasized the failing which seems persistent 
throughout Slidell's career his lack of high character as a 
public man. "From testimonials submitted," writes President 
Jackson to Vice President Van Buren, November 19, 1833, 
in that rough-and-ready style that makes his correspondence 
so diverting, "Mr. Slidell has imposed on the Secretary of the 
Treasury and myself in his recommendation of an appraiser 
of the Port of New Orleans, the man had been suspended 
as inspector for intemperance twice and then permitted to re 
sign ... it is stated further by Mr. Gordon that Slidell, 
Nicholson and Grimes are all calhoun men and nullifiers. . . . 
Knowing that you had a favorable opinion of Mr. Slidell as 
well as myself this letter is written to put you on your guard 
of this man, that you may not break your shins over stools 
not in your way and that you may be guarded in any com 
munication you may happen to make with him." * 

Slidell's emotions on slavery and disunion never reached 
extravagant expression; but that was rather because, where 
principles were concerned, his nature lacked fervor. He cheer 
fully accepted the ideas of his environment, for that com 
posed the material with which he had to work. In reviewing 
the lives of such Confederate leaders as Davis, Stephens, 
Toombs, and most of the others, questions of conviction loom 
large, for they were vital matters; but, in developing the great 
issue of the prewar era, Slidell was an unimportant figure. 
He made no contributions to the discussion, one way or the 
other. He performed only one important public service: an 
abortive mission to Mexico, in 1845; for all the rest of his 
days, Slidell's activities were purely political. In this less ex- 

4 Correspondence of Andrea) Jackson, Vol. V, p. 227. 


alted field, his career was rapid and triumphant. His progress 
was that of a great political Boss first of New Orleans, then 
of Louisiana, finally, in 1856, of the Democratic party in the 
nation. Beginning as herder of election mobs in best Tammany 
style, he ended, in this latter year, as President maker and 
national patronage bestower of the Buchanan Administration. 
And his methods were the coarsest of a rugged period: they 
included ballot-box stuffing, the manipulation of "floaters" 
and "repeaters," the brokerage of offices, and pork-barrel 
legislation. Slidell served one term in Congress and nearly 
two terms in the United States Senate, but his record com 
prises scarcely a speech, and no serious piece of legislation. 
His first party coup, in the Polk election of 1844, gave him 
national reputation of a kind. In this contest he "swung" 
Louisiana for the Democratic candidate. Chartering two steam 
boats in New Orleans, Slidell loaded -them with purchased 
roughs, sailed down to Plaquemines parish, stopping at several 
landings while his mercenaries cast a succession of ballots for 
James K. Polk, thereby giving him the electoral vote of 

Long before Slidell attained the Senate, therefore, in 
1853, the word "Slidellian" had taken on a well-defined 
meaning. The complicated Houmas scandal had added to this 
doubtful fame. In this proceeding Judah P. Benjamin was his 
associate, as in politics generally; and, justly or unjustly, the 
standing of both men suffered severely. Slidell and others had 
acquired an old land claim of uncertain validity; Benjamin in 
troduced a bill in Congress intended to give these grantees a 
legal title. The man who most severely denounced this trans 
action, and caused it to be undone, was Robert Toombs, of 
Georgia. The New York Times charged that Benjamin had re 
ceived a fee of $10,000 for putting through the bill. Benjamin 
and Slidell's biographers have been unable to discover the truth 
or falsity of these accusations, any more than they have proved, 
or disproved, similar scandals involving the Tehuantepec 


Railway, in which both Benjamin and Slidell were concerned. 
But that Slidell was a machine politician of an extreme type 
is true. His enemies accused him of transplanting at least one 
institution of his abandoned New York to the bayou country 
the methods of Tammany Hall; yet it is not certain that 
this honor is his, for floaters, repeaters, and thuggery at poll 
ing booths were not unknown even' before SlidelFs arrival; 
significantly one of the largest parishes of Louisiana rejoiced 
in the name of St. Tammany. 

And Slidell's more expansive nature rapidly advanced be 
yond the narrow sphere of parochial politics. He had two 
ambitions; one was to become a Senator from Louisiana, the 
other to make James Buchanan President of the United States. 
He realized the first in 1853, the second three years after 
ward. His enthusiasm for Buchanan was not entirely selfish; 
it involved, indeed, a real belief in the man and even a per 
sonal affection. Among the posts the grateful Buchanan prof 
fered was that of Minister to France. But Slidell refused at 
the hands of his dearest friend the job that he afterwards 
accepted from Jefferson Davis, a President to whom he was 
not friendly at all. There is something almost fatalistic in the 
way Slidell's career skirted diplomacy. He occupied two post 
tions in this field that to Mexico in 1845, and that to 
France, for the Confederacy, in 1862. In both cases he failed 
of an official reception. Mexico declined to recognize any 
American Minister in 1845 the two nations were on the 
brink of war over Texas and Slidell was forced to view the 
revolutionary scene from Vera Cruz and Jalapa. Yet his brief 
Mexican experience had an important bearing on his existence 
in France from 1862 to 1865. For Mexico was the pivot about 
which his diplomatic efforts for the Confederacy were to re 
volve and the three months' furtive glimpse Slidell obtained 
of that Republic and the forces, revolutionary, social, and 
ecclesiastical, that ruled its life, proved a most enlightening 
preparative to his subsequent career near the Quai d'Orsay. 




Even Mexico, in 1845, hardly presented such a scene of 
personal intrigue and complicated politics as France in 1862. 
Napoleon III himself once described this period as the "apogee 
of the Second Empire." This potentate, who, only a few years 
before, had been the laughingstock of Europe, came now 
close to being its dictator. In alliance with Britain, he had 
won the Crimean War and humbled Russia; almost single- 
handed he had driven the Austrians from Lombardy and 
created an independent Italian nation. The glories of Magenta 
and Solferino were still resplendent when this emissary of the 
South, with his French wife and Frenchified daughters, began 
his gingerly approach to the Tuileries. It was a curious group 
of statesmen with whom Slidell had to deal. Louis Napoleon, 
with all his failings, had one pronounced virtue ; he was loyally 
devoted to old friends and fellow conspirators. Thus nearly 
all the "brigands triomphants" who, in December, 1851, had 
precipitated the coup d'etat, abolished the short-lived second 
Republic, and almost overnight transformed Napoleon from 
a bourgeois President into a tinsel Emperor, still held chief 
posts in the Government. Everywhere Slidell confronted per 
sonal reminders of the first Napoleon. Walewski, son of the 
greatest of the Bonapartes and his famous Polish mistress, 
Countess Walewska, had recently left the Foreign Depart 
ment, but still, in his post of Minister of State, remained one 
of the closest of advisers. He bore a striking physical resem 
blance to the victor of Austerlitz, and had inherited at least 
a suggestion of his ability; he was the closest confidant of 
Eugenie, and champion of that lady's extreme views on church 
and state. One of the most amazing of all the amazing char 
acters even France has generated was the predominant force 
in governing the Empire. This was that Count afterward 
Duke De Morny, who, as supreme artificer of the coup 


d'etat, had been instrumental in placing Napoleon on his 

This man maintained a sumptuous life at the Palais Bourbon, 
only second in splendor to that of the Tuileries itself. And, 
indeed, with some justification, for both royal and imperial 
blood liberally flowed in Morny's veins. He was half brother 
to Napoleon III, for he was the illegitimate son of Napoleon's 
mother, Queen Hortense, and the Count de Flahaut who, 
strange to relate, was serving, at the time of SlidelPs arrival, 
as French Ambassador to London. Morny's habit of con 
spicuously advertising this blood connection greatly annoyed 
the Emperor, but, on grounds of descent, irregular as it was, 
Morny was far more illustrious than the brother he had seated 
on his throne. Not only was he the son of the fragile Queen 
Hortense, but the grandson of Talleyrand and the great-great 
grandson of Lou/s XV, all, of course, irregularly. 5 He thus 
forms a fascinating problem in heredity. It is not fanciful to 
perceive in this new friend of Slidell for he speedily became 
suc h traits of all these distinguished ancestors. He possessed 
much of the social grace of Hortense, the cunning, adroitness, 
and audacity of Talleyrand, and the utter moral worthlessness, 
public and private, of Louis XV. A man of many-sided talents 
a leader of fashion, one of the most sought-for wits at the 
salons, a collaborator with Offenbach in operettas and vaude 
villes, an inveterate gambler at the clubs, an entrepreneur who, 
at the age of twenty-seven, created the sugar industry of 
France, an able statesman De Morny was all these things, 
and at the same time he was colossally corrupt. Alphonse 
Daudet has drawn his character in the de Mora of Le Nabab. 
The thing above all that gained De Morny infamy was the 
extravagance of his life. This demanded, a huge income, which 
he obtained chiefly by using state secrets on the stock exchange. 

5 The recently published Diary of the "French Revolution, by Gouvernetir Morris, con 
tains much about the Countess Adelaide (or Adele) de Flahaut, the mother of De .Moray's 
father. She was herself supposed to be the granddaughter (irregularly) of Louis XV. 


This practice, as will appear, had an important bearing on 
Franco-American relations in the Civil War. 

Both Walewski and Morny received Slidell with the 
greatest cordiality. "The Due de Morny, whom I frequently 
see, is now and has been for some months a warm sympathizer 
with our cause" such passages are common in Slidell's 
letters to Benjamin, though, characteristically enough, Morny 
was at the same time confiding to John Bigelow his unswerving 
devotion to the Union. Soon after arrival Slidell had a most 
satisfactory interview with Walewski, and found him also 
"decidedly favorable" to the Southern side. From the be 
ginning, however, Slidell dealt chiefly with another of the old 
companions of Napoleon's vagabond days, his fellow con 
spirator at Strassburg and Boulogne, and, next to Morny, the 
main engineer of the coup d y elat. This was the Count de 
Persigny, Minister of the Interior. John Bigelow described 
Morny and Persigny as u the two most conspicuous and reckless 
adventurers in Europe," yet there was a difference between 
the two men. One was as sincere in his devotion to the new 
empire as the other was opportunist. Morny, in his early time, 
was an Orleanist; even his affection for his half brother did 
not propel him into the Bonapartist camp until indications 
safely pointed to triumph. When the fortunes of Louis 
Napoleon had reached their lowest ebb, however, Persigny 
was a devoted follower. Victor Hugo, in his poetic impreca 
tions on the new regime, pictured Morny as a jackal; he might 
just as appositely have described Persigny as a Newfoundland 
dog. For Persigny, in the darkest days, lived only to advocate 
the Bonapartist cause. Having shared all Napoleon's mis 
fortunes poverty, prison, exile Persigny also shared his 
triumphs; and, by the time Slidell appeared on the scene, was 
the closest imperial confidant. By the outside world Persigny 
was looked upon as the Emperor's spokesman. His speeches 
and conversation were regarded as echoing Napoleon's 
thoughts and programmes. This gave significance to Persigny's 


friendliness with Slidell. His newspaper, the Constitutionel, 
fervidly championed the Confederate cause. In personal meet 
ings he treated the Confederate envoy with more than official 
courtesy. He was, as Slidell reports to Benjamin, "an ardent 
and steadfast friend." Within a week of his arrival, Slidell 
had seen this Cabinet officer twice. "He is with us, heart and 
soul/' Slidell wrote Benjamin. "He said that our cause was 
just, and that every dictate of humanity, the well established 
principles of international law, and the true policy of France 
all called for our recognition and the declaration of the in 
efficiency of the blockade. He said that the Emperor entertained 
this opinion." "M. Persigny has invited me to call upon him 
frequently and has directed his huissier [door-keeper] to 
admit me at any time." 6 

Quite a contrast, this, to the icy treatment Mason was re 
ceiving in London! Yet Persigny did not direct foreign affairs; 
he was Minister of the Interior, not exactly the official with 
whom one might suppose a foreign diplomat should be hold 
ing secret sessions. Where, meanwhile, was the Secretary for 
Foreign Affairs, the statesman who filled the same position in 
France that Russell did in England? Slidell had met this 
functionary also; in this case, however, the experience had 
proved less satisfactory than the other conversations, fidouard 
Antoine Thouvenel, in February, 1862, Foreign Secretary of 
France, little resembled his brother statesmen of the Second 
Empire. In manner of life, in morals, in personal and political 
history, in international ideals, he stood quite apart from his 
imperial associates. Thouvenel was the only member of the 
group who had not figured in the conspiracies that had placed 
Napoleon on the throne. In his existence barricades, back 
stairs plottings, coup Petals had played no part. The more 
sedate career of lawyer and diplomat had been his training 
ground; ability as a negotiator of commercial treaties and 

* Slidell to Benjamin, February 11, 1862. Official Records of Union and Confederate 
Navies, Seriea II, Vol. 1, p. 341. 


Balkan alliances, as well as a most modern attitude on the 
Italian question, had been his chief recommendations for his 
exalted post. Younger than most of his companions, concerned 
with statecraft rather than politics, the trade of revolutionist 
was alien to his nature, and the exciting days of December, 
1851, found Thouvenel quietly serving his country as Minister 
in Munich. In this office Thouvenel had served with a single- 
hearted devotion to the new liberalism of France that had 
won the approbation of patriotic Frenchmen and the undying 
hatred of Eugenie. For years the Empress and her favorite 
Minister, Walewski, had championed the extreme temporal 
power of the church, and when Thouvenel, the exponent of 
Italian unity, displaced this ultramontane statesman, the lady's 
resentment burned with a real Spanish fury. Historians have 
estimated Thouvenel in a more admiring spirit. He is almost 
the only one of Napoleon's advisers for whom they have a 
friendly word. Thouvenel and De Tocqueville, wrote John 
Bigelow, were the "two Ministers of Louis Napoleon in whom 
France has most reason to take pride and whose displacement 
she has most reason to deplore." Possibly Bigelow Federal 
consul general in Paris, afterward Minister was not an 
impartial critic. He could hardly help feeling kindly toward 
the man, who, almost alone of Napoleon's Ministers, showed 
a favorable disposition to the cause that so occupied Bigelow's 

For this unimpassioned diplomat steadily repulsed the 
blandishments of Slidell. The Davis Government never aroused 
in him any enthusiasm. Nonrecognition, nonintervention, 
neutrality in word and deed, acceptance of the Federal blockade 
even Lord John Russell himself was hardly more inflexible 
in resisting Confederate arguments. This aloofness proved a 
constant irritation to Slidell. His letters to Benjamin bristle 
with complaints. The Foreign Minister, he writes, is no friend 
of the South. "He is decidedly hostile to our cause." "He is 
the only member of the Ministry whose sympathies are not 


with us." Slidell even carried his complaints to Persigny, and 
the friendly Frenchman with difficulty soothed his ruffled 
feelings. Do not take too seriously Thouvenel's coolness, 
Persigny said. Remember that he is a diplomat and that diplo 
mats must move cautiously. "His reserve and coldness are 
habitual" they arose partly from his temperament, always 
quiet, uncommunicative, noncommittal, and also from his life 
long training in diplomatic posts. u Above all," cautioned Per 
signy, u keep in mind the restraints imposed by his position!" 
After all, Thouvenel was Foreign Minister of France; what 
he said committed his country; Persigny, Rouher, Baroche, and 
others could discuss the American question more or less in 
formally, but Thouvenel had to weigh his words. Slidell may 
have been persuaded, but he was not consoled. 

Persigny might have been more successful in soothing Slidell 
had not that envoy's first meeting with Thouvenel left him 
with a sense of chill. Not that it failed in courtesy. Thouvenel, 
however indisposed to grow sentimental over the Confederacy, 
was still a Frenchman, to whom the blunt rudeness of an Earl 
Russell was alien. Perhaps this icy politeness made the ex 
perience a more trying one. Thouvenel, for instance, quite 
contentedly let Slidell do most of the talking. On purely 
personal matters experiences on the Trent, Fort Warren, 
the release, the general satisfaction of France that Great 
Britain had avoided war with the United States the French 
man waxed conversational. When the talk touched foreign 
policy, however, he lapsed into a silence that would have done 
credit to Lord John Russell himself. "Finding him indisposed 
to open a new subject of conversation," reported Slidell, he 
himself most diplomatically broached the delicate topic. Be 
fore granting Slidell's request for an interview, Thouvenel 
had insisted that the question of recognition should not be 
brought forward. Slidell now cautiously mentioned this pro 
hibited topic. 

"I shall not refer to the subject of recognition until I have 


reason to believe that the French government is better pre 
pared to entertain it." 

M. Thouvenel received this observation in silence. 'The 
Minister was determined to say as little as possible himself," 
Slidell reported to Benjamin, "but was not unwilling to hear 


So Slidell now delivered a lengthy discourse on the Federal 
blockade, making the usual objections; that it contravened the 
Treaty of Paris, that it was ineffective, and that Confederate 
vessels were disregarding it at will. He produced a long array 
of statistics to substantiate the last point. But then M. 
Thouvenel interrupted with almost the only question addressed 
to Slidell in the interview. It was a penetrating one and 
clearly annoyed the Confederate. 

"If so many vessels have broken the blockade, how is it that 
so little cotton has reached neutral ports?" 

The whole of Europe at the time was asking this same 
question. Slidell explained that most ships slipping through 
the blockade were small ones, engaged in transporting tur 
pentine to the West Indies. Larger vessels refrained from 
commerce through fear ; in most cases they could get through, 
but the danger of capture deterred them from making the 

Then Slidell posed another delicate question. He had been 
informed that Great Britain had approached France on block 
ade matters and other infractions of the Federal fleet, and 
had received a response that the blockade was an ineffective 
one and not entitled to recognition. 

"If my question is not indiscreet," he said, "I should like to 
know whether my information is correct?" 

Thouvenel replied in words which his visitor described as 
"categorical and unqualified." 

"No communication of the sort -has been received by France 
from the British government." He was also certain that no 
exchange of views on the subject had been held with other 


powers. "If there had been I could scarcely have failed to 
know it. I have heard nothing of the kind." 

Thouvenel explained once more that a practical alliance ex 
isted between France and Great Britain on the American 
question. Neither would take action except in cooperation with 
the other. This agreement had been made on the outbreak 
of the Civil War, and it was still in force. But the French 
Minister, reticent in this as in all matters, did not definitely 
describe the nature of this understanding, though Slidell 
learned the facts in the next few weeks. It was far more un 
favorable to the Confederate cause than had been supposed. 
It was not an agreement on equal terms, for by it France had 
given the initiative in American affairs to Great Britain. 
'Take the lead, we follow!" this was the basis of the one 
sided entente. Thus France had already accepted Russell's 
attitude on the blockade, much as that contravened her own 
policy, and great as was the danger that such a ruling held 
for her in future wars. But the European situation was then 
acute; a good understanding with Great Britain was indis 
pensable to Napoleon's foreign policy; thus he had no wish 
to quarrel with England over anything, above all, America. 

"Finding M. Thouvenel very decidedly reticent and un 
willing to say anything which could possibly commit himself 
or his government," wrote Slidell, "I took my leave of him 
without waiting for any intimation that the interview had 
been sufficiently prolonged." 7 

7 For this episode, see Slidell to Mason, with enclosures, February 11, 1862, and 
March 26, 1862. Official Records of Union and Confederate Navies, Series II, Vol. 3, 
pp. 341-372. 




HERE was hardly an auspicious beginning for Slidell's mission, 
nor did his relations with Thouvenel improve in the succeed 
ing months. This Foreign Minister, like most Frenchmen, de 
tested slavery; he was far more interested in Europe than in 
America, was concerned more with Italian unity than with 
a new republic rising three thousand miles away, and was 
determined, in the furtherance of his foreign policy, to keep 
on the best of terms with Great Britain. He was disposed, 
therefore, to give the British Government precedence in Amer 
ican affairs, and to support whatever attitude British states 
men might adopt. In taking this stand, Thouvenel better rep 
resented French public opinion than did Napoleon and his 
other Ministers. Practically all classes in France inclined in 
sympathy to the North. This held as true of the upper social 
orders and the bourgeoisie as of more humble Frenchmen. 
With the aristocracy, indeed, precisely the opposite situation 
prevailed in France from that which Mason had found in 
England. Both Orleanists and Legitimists early manifested 
their sympathy for the Union. This was not owing entirely to 
enthusiasm for the Federal cause. Hostility to Napoleon III 
largely directed the attitude of Royalists on all public ques 
tions. The mere fact that the man these elements looked upon 
as a vulgar usurper favored the Confederacy automatically 
placed them on the other side. Orleanist cordiality to the North 
was sufficiently displayed when the Comte de Paris, pretender 
to the throne of France, his brother, the Due de Chartres, 
and his uncle, the Prince de Joinville, joined the Federal army 
and served on McClellan's staff; the Count afterward wrote 


a history of the Civil War so friendly to the Federal cause 
that it aroused great anger in the South. The royal family of 
France had historic reasons for making the Union cause their 
own. The Bourbons had always regarded the United States 
as their own creation in part. In its progress they took 
dynastic pride. Had not their ancestor, Louis XVI, sup 
ported the Revolutionary cause of 1776, first surreptitiously 
and afterward openly, and thus greatly contributed to its 

Moreover, the true interests of France demanded the 
triumph of the Lincoln Government. The same reasoning 
which made it good national policy for France in the eight 
eenth century to favor the establishment of an independent 
united America made it wise statesmanship to prevent its dis 
ruption in 1861. France had helped the new republic in order 
to weaken the British Empire. A strong unified power in the 
western Atlantic was needed to act as a counterpoise to mari 
time England. That principle held just as true in 1861 as in 
1776. A disintegrated America would enormously strengthen 
England and increase her power against France and the Con 
tinent. Thus political and dynastic France evinced a disposition 
toward America diametrically opposed to that of similar 
forces in England. For a century the Federal Union and 
monarchical France had lived on terms of intimate friendship. 
French writers, unlike British, had not been busy for a century 
heaping ridicule and abuse upon a raw, undeveloped nation; 
French travelers, in the main, had made agreeable reports of 
life beyond the Atlantic and a great French philosopher, De 
Tocqueville, had given the world its most understanding analy 
sis of American institutions. To the British aristocracy and 
propertied classes, the United States, in 1861, was despised as 
a faithless, ungrateful child that had left the parental roof 
and was now being properly punished for its sins; to France, 
it was an adopted son, whose misfortunes were a matter of 
sympathetic concern to the foster parent. This sentiment found 


its appropriate symbol in the attitude of the descendants of 
that Bourbon king who had done so much to bring the new 
nation into being. 

Many Bonapartists, despite the behavior of their head, 
followed the royal example. The house of Prince Napoleon 
"Plon-Plon" himself second in line to the Imperial throne, 
served as gathering place for French adherents of the North. 
Such leaders of French literature and statesmanship as Thiers, 
Henri Martin, Laboulaye, and Louis Blanc openly espoused 
the Washington Government. The most influential French 
newspapers, unlike their principal counterparts in London 
Le Temps, Le Journal des Debats, La Presse, advocated 
daily the Northern interest. The greatest French periodicals, 
in particular La Revue des Deux Mondes, devoted large space 
to defending the Union, and the mercantile and working classes, 
in large part, accepted this leadership. The cotton famine 
was not so acute a problem in France as in England. Cotton 
spinning was not such a supreme industry in France as on the 
other side of the Channel. Britain, in normal times, took 
5,000,000 bales from the South and France 500,000. Thou 
sands of French artisans lost their occupation, it is true, but the 
extreme miseries of Lancashire had not descended on northern 
France. Indeed, the scarcity of cotton brought compensations, 
for it stimulated the French linen, silk, and woolen industries. 
But the thing that chiefly influenced the French masses was 
their aversion to slavery. Mason found this hostility a serious 
matter in England but nowhere in the world, except perhaps 
New England, did this system arouse such hostility as in 
France. These several considerations explain Napoleon's 
hesitation in the American crisis. This is the reason why he 
dared not make warfare on the North, especially without 
England as partner. It was freely declared at the time that 
such action on his part would have precipitated a revolution 
and driven him from his unsteady throne. 

On the merits of the case, therefore, Napoleon III should 


hare supported the Federal Government. Had he truly re 
flected French opinion, such would have been his course. He 
understood clearly the true welfare of his nation and the 
prevailing state of public sentiment; in his first interview with 
Slidell, the Emperor frankly said that French interest de 
manded that he support the North; its break-up would be a 
misfortune for France. A powerful America was desirable as 
a contrepoids to Britain. Why, therefore, did he adopt his 
pro-Southern course? The explanation was purely Napoleonic 
and dynastic. It had no relation to the vital concerns of the 
French people themselves. The underlying motive of his plan 
has been, set forth in a preceding chapter. It was all com 
prised in the single word Mexico. That imperial scheme, in 
its formative stage in 1861, had grown in proportions in the 
succeeding twelvemonth. At first a tentative, hesitating en 
terprise, it had now become a determined policy. By the time 
John Slidell reached Paris, Napoleon was so deeply enmeshed 
that he could hardly withdraw. The tripartite expedition of 
1861 France, England, and Spain had collapsed. Neither 
England nor Spain had shown any interest in establishing a 
Hapsburg Mexican empire that would grow into an appanage 
of France. But the departure of British and Spanish ships 
caused consternation in French official circles. 

Some of these statesmen, especially De Morny, had personal 
reasons for regretting the defection. This speculator, one of 
the first movers in the Mexican expedition, probably did not 
feel great enthusiasm for Maximilian, nor for French imperial 
designs on the American continent. But he had one substantial 
reason for wishing the advancing armies well. John Bigelow 
tells of a charming visit he made, in September, 1863, to 
M. Berryer, one of the most eloquent of French advocates. 
The old aristocrat spoke scathingly of the Mexican business. 
"What good will that do France?" he asked. Bigelow sug 
gested that possibly French creditors might collect their debts. 
"Yes," replied Berryer, "to fill the pockets of Morny and his 


speculators." * This ancient Frenchman a fine old Royalist 
whose American policy, he informed Bigelow in 1863, was 
that "of Louis XVI" had better information than most of 
his contemporaries ; not until the collapse of the French Em 
pire did the secret origin of the first invasion of Mexico be 
come known. The French Commune, ransacking and burning 
the Tuileries, uncovered documents which laid the whole thing 
bare. De Morny's avarice, it then appeared, had been the 
incentive that made him, next to Eugenie, the chief supporter 
of this fatal intervention. A Swiss banker, J. B. Jecker, in 
1859 advanced Miramon, one of the many short-lived clerical 
Presidents of Mexico, 3,750,000 francs, taking in exchange 
Mexican bonds to the face value of 75,000,000. His attempt 
to collect this monstrous bill started the train of Mexico's 
misfortunes, for, failing by ordinary means, Jecker entered 
into a bargain with Morny. In consideration for using the 
military and naval forces of France to extort payment, Morny 
was to receive one third of the profits. At about the time that 
Jecker and Morny concluded this secret agreement, a group 
of Mexican exiles in Paris, extremely monarchical in politics 
and ultramontane in religion, were ingratiating themselves 
into the confidence of the pious Eugenie. The joint expedition 
of France, Spain, and England had followed. This demon 
stration was dissolved by the withdrawal of Spain and Eng 
land, soon after Slidell's arrival. 

But Napoleon's soldiers remained, for the reason that debt 
collection was only one of the purposes of their invasion. The 
larger aim the overthrow of the Mexican republic, and the 
creation of a Hapsburg empire in its place now hung by a 
single thread, the fate of the Confederacy. The new foreign 
policy of Napoleon III was thus linked to the fortunes of 
Jefferson Davis. Herein we have the explanation of Napoleon's 
genial interest in Slidell; this is the reason why Eugenie began 
to invite Mrs. Slidell and her charming daughters to exclusive 

1 Retrospections oj an Active Life, by John Bigelow, Vol. II, p. 66. 


imperial functions. They needed the Confederacy to carry 
through their Mexican plan. The triumph of the North would 
spell the doom of the projected empire. It is an interesting 
study to review the ups and downs of the Mexican adventure, 
and to observe how each vacillation in attitude depended on 
events in the American Civil War. Not until the Federal 
armies met disastrous defeat at Bull Run did Napoleon des 
patch his forces to Vera Cruz. Not until Lee triumphed in the 
campaign before Richmond did he decide, despite the with 
drawal of Great Britain and Spain, to pursue his Mexican 
campaign alone, and gave General Forey orders to march his 
troops to the City of Mexico. By the time Slidell reached 
the imperial court, the possible restitution of the Union was 
a nightmare that haunted Napoleon's dreams. From the be 
ginning Washington had frowned upon his project. Congress 
had passed a resolution of most unfriendly tenor and Lincoln 
had announced that the Monroe Doctrine still embodied the 
American aspiration for the Western Hemisphere. If the Civil 
War should come to a victorious end, the United States would 
possess an army of not far from one million men perfectly 
equipped, well led,, and with several years' active experience 
in warfare. What opposition could the few French divisions 
Napoleon might safely send to Mexico present to such a 
force? Especially as, at this moment, a multitude of enemies 
were rising against Napoleon in Europe itself, ready to pounce 
should he become involved in a transatlantic struggle? The 
result would have been defeat, humiliation, national bank 
ruptcy, and the end of the Napoleonic empire. The deback 
that came in 1871, after a terrible military disaster, would 
have simply been antedated by five or six years. 

French policy for nearly a hundred years should therefore 
have placed Napoleon on the side of the Union; public opin 
ion in France strongly supported the North; but these con 
siderations gave way to the p.ursuit of a purely dynastic end. 
Napoleon's position was particularly difficult because, for 


reasons already explained, he could do nothing in American 
affairs without the assistance of Great Britain. And Great 
Britain had no immediate reason for burning her fingers in 
that particular fire. Yet the Emperor did not entirely lack 
allies. Judah P. Benjamin and John Slidell clearly saw the 
value to the South of the Maximilian scheme. Not that it 
aroused much enthusiasm in either breast, especially when it 
was learned that the Napoleonic plan contemplated the re- 
establishment of Texas as an independent republic, to serve 
as a buffer between Maximilian Mexico and the domain of 
Jefferson Davis. Still Mexico could be useful in obtaining 
French recognition. At the famous consortings in Biarritz in 
the autumn of 1863, this matter reached a crisis. Maximilian's 
fortunes were then in critical state. After preliminary reverses, 
the French had finally captured the City of Mexico. French 
agents in the capital had gone through the form of abolishing 
the Republic and setting up the Empire. A Mexican delegation, 
headed by Guitterez de Estrada, had visited his prospective 
Majesty at Miramar and offered him the "crown of Monte- 
zuma." Still the Hapsburg hesitated. Would he accept the 
dangerous dignity? Such was the question disturbing the im 
perial group at Biarritz. Wherever the Slidells went this topic 
held chief place in conversation. Here Slidell saw much of 
Hidalgo and Guitterez, who, like himself, were members of 
the imperial set. As to acceptance, Guitterez declared, there 
was no doubt. According to reports from Miramar, however, 
one difficulty still stood in the way. The future Emperor was 
keeping a close eye on the Confederate armies. His cause, he 
had recently informed a visitor, and that of the Confederacy 
were one 1 2 Why were France and Britain so slow, he com 
plained, in recognizing Davis? Until they did so, he seemed 
unwilling to move. "My friend at the Foreign Office," Slidell 
wrote Benjamin, December 3, 1863, "confirms what is said 

2 Slidell to Benjamin, December 3, 1863. Official Records of Union and Confederate 
Navies, Series II, Vol. 3, p. 969. 


of the value that the Archduke attaches to our recognition* 
He has seen the paper in which the Archduke set forth the 
different measures which he considers essential to the success 
ful establishment of his government. The recognition of the 
Confederacy headed the list." 8 


What made the situation so trying was the unyielding at 
titude of Great Britain. France could take no step except at 
the initiative of Queen Victoria, a monarch who seemed to 
grow more stubborn every day. By this time September, 
1863 Slidell had spent more than a year seeking to change 
the Napoleonic attitude. But nothing could be done so long 
as the Franco-British understanding on "the American ques 
tion 7 ' prevailed. As a shrewd diplomat Slidell could find only 
one solution to the impasse. That understanding itself must 
be broken. Some inducement must be offered France to persuade 
her to forsake her British ally and take independent action 
on the Confederacy. Would England ever change her policy? 
Never, said Slidell. France must act therefore alone or his 
Southern cause was at an end. The friendly disposition of 
French statesmen, even of the Emperor, counted for nothing 
in itself. To Sliders constant pleadings that the Southern 
enterprise was just, the answer of Cabinet Ministers was al 
ways forthcoming: "Oui, out, Monsieur T Then why did not 
France take action? A shrug of the shoulders gave the only 
reply. There was England, so obstinate, so determined to let 
the Americans fight it out by themselves! Que faire? 

Clearly, so long as this entente prevailed, no progress could 
be made. Evidently SlidelPs job as negotiator was to drive 
what diplomats call a "wedge" between the two powers. For 

8 Slidell to Benjamin, December 3, 1863. Official Records of Union and Confederate 
Navies, Series II, Vol. 3, p. 969. 


Britain both Benjamin and Slidell felt the utmost dislike and 
contempt The relations of the United States and England 
Benjamin declared, in a letter to Slidell ( have now become 
settled on the established basis of insulting aggression on one 
side and tame submission on the other Benjamin even ex 
presses a surreptitious admiration for Seward, who had so 
completely subdued the British lion Slidell was just as hostile 
Russell's American policy he pilloried as cold callous inhuman 
It had no sympathetic interest in either side it was using 
both as pawns to advance the political and material concerns 
of its own empire The purpose Slidell summed up the whole 
thing in a talk with Napoleon was 4 the destruction of the 
agricultural industry of the South and the bankruptcy and 
disintegration of the North The hard cynicism innate in 
Slidell s own character was attributed probably not un 
justly to the British Cabinet I have no hope from Eng 
land," he wrote his "dear Benjamin," August 24 1862 'be 
cause I am satisfied that she desires an indefinite prolongation 
of the war, until the North shall be entirely exhausted and 
broken down Nothing can exceed the selfishness of British 
statesmen except their wretched hypocrisy They are con 
tinually boasting about their disinterested magnanimity and 
objection of all other considerations than those dictated by 
a high toned morality, while their entire policy is marked by 
egotism and duplicity ' 4 The South foolishly imagines, Slidell 
declared that its military victories will bring English recogm 
tion It does not see that these very triumphs make such 
recognition impossible Had the Confederacy lost the Battle 
of Bull Run such was Slidell s conviction Great Britain 
would probably have rushed to its aid All that this and other 
successes accomplished was to convince British statesmen that 
the South could win without their help Why therefore should 
it risk the dangers of intervention? 

To break the Franco British agreement on American af 

4 Offictal R co ds f Un n nd C nf d at N vie S r s II Vol 3 pp 520-521 


fairs, and to bring about separate French action now became 
the single goal of Slidell's diplomacy. He went about the 
matter ably and intelligently. The fundamental facts in the 
situation strongly favored his argument. The most important 
of them was that the interests of Great Britain and France 
in this neutral position were not the same. The policy which 
Britain had adopted and France had obediently followed was, 
Slidell pointed out, a very good thing for England but a very 
bad thing for her associate nation. For instance, there was 
Britain's recognition of the blockade. Such recognition might, 
in the long run, bring advantage to England, but it might 
easily spell the ruin of France. Why should the latter country 
pave the way to her own eventual economic strangling by 
accepting the Lincoln interdict as legal as she was doing 
by the simple process of not repudiating it? Lord John Rus 
sell had always in mind a possible, even probable war with 
France; he planned, in such a very probable contingency, to 
blockade French coasts in precisely the same way that the 
Federal Navy was now closing Southern ports. Again, the 
prolongation of the war would strengthen England, but would 
it not, at the same time, weaken France? England welcomed the 
American war, even the distressful cotton famine, because 
that would help her carry out a scheme she had long been 
contemplating, the establishment of cotton culture in India. 
Would not that mean death to the cotton-spinning industry 
of northern France? The British plan of nonrecognition and 
nonintervention was thus, from whatever point of view re 
garded, opposed to the real interests of the Empire, whatever r 
benefit it might bring to England. 

Benjamin now came to Slidell's aid with an inducement of 
his own. This clever statesman evolved a "wedge-driving" 
device of most practical nature. This was little less than a pro 
posal to purchase French support. "Bribery" is not an inapt 
word to describe his programme. Benjamin would use this 
kind of persuasion in two ways. One was an offer of special 


trade facilities, and the other essentially an outright money 
douceur. Not inaccurately had these shrewd gentlemen assessed 
the calibre of the gambler then occupying the French imperial 
throne. Give trade and financial aid to the sadly depleted Im 
perial treasury and withhold them from Albion the abhorred 
here was Benjamin's way of separating the two Govern 
ments. Almost the new secretary's first act was to confide this 
ingenious secret to SlidelL His letter bore several injunctions 
as to its extremely i 'confidential" character; it was a matter, 
indeed, in which silent action was desirable. Had France ac 
cepted this offer, the Anglo-French agreement would have 
been undone, and that, of course, was the purpose. On his 
part Napoleon was to defy the Federal blockade and despatch 
his merchant ships to Southern ports. In return French prod 
ucts were to be admitted to the Confederacy, duty free, for a 
"certain defined period." Thus France was to enjoy free trade 
with the Confederacy, to the exclusion of Great Britain and 
other nations. And there was another even more tempting 
consideration. France, Benjamin informed Slidell, was known 
to be short of funds. Mexico and other imperial schemes were 
proving a terrible strain. Perhaps the Confederacy could ease 
this situation a little! To-day the spectacle of Mr. Davis's 
Government, itself living mainly on paper money, offering 
financial aid to this, greatest of Continental powers, has its 
humorous aspect. Yet the resourceful Benjamin had devised 
a plan by which it might be done. King Cotton again ! The 
reward of France for defying the Federal blockade was to be 
a large gift of this indispensable "white gold." Benjamin's 
first offer was 100,000 bales, but Slidell could increase the 
amount to almost any extent in case the French manifested 
a bargaining spirit. Another trading advantage was suggested. 
The French ships coming for this cotton would bring large 
quantities of French products, which the Southern states des 
perately needed. On the mere basis of 100,000 bales, and the 
profits on imported (duty free) articles, Benjamin estimated 


a net increment to the French treasury of $25,000,000. "If 
it should be your good fortune to succeed in this delicate and 
difficult negotiation,'' Benjamin informed Slidell, "you might 
well consider that practically our struggle would have been 
brought to a successful termination, for you would, of course, 
not fail to make provision for the necessary supply of small 
arms and powder (especially cannon powder) which alone 
are required to enable us to confront our foes triumphantly." 5 
The real objective was to entangle France in the Civil War. 
Napoleon could break the blockade only by sending warships 
to accompany his merchant fleet and warships off the American 
coast could have had only one result. 

Significantly, Slidell did not lay this proposal to purchase 
intervention before Thouvenel, the proper intermediary for 
his communications to the French Government. Thouvenel 
was not only friendly to the North, but he had the reputation 
of being a high-minded gentleman, and it would have taken a 
bold spirit to suggest to him the purchase of French support. 
Instead Slidell consulted Persigny, now almost become a 
familiar crony, and probably the closest of all Frenchmen, 
except De Morny, to the Emperor. No record exists of 
Persigny's response, but there are indications that the idea 
was not unpleasing. "I communicated to him confidentially the 
substance of my new instructions," Slidell wrote Benjamin, 
July 25, 1862 a delay of several weeks was caused by this 
Minister's absence in England. Persigny's reply was immediate. 
"Go to Vichy and see the Emperor." Count Persigny "gave 
me a very warm letter to General Fleury, who is a great 
favorite of the Emperor and constantly accompanies him, 
urging him to procure an audience for me. I went accordingly 
to Vichy on Tuesday, arriving there in the evening. The next 
morning I sent a note to General Fleury, enclosing that of 
M. de Persigny soliciting his good offices to procure me l une 

* Benjamin to Slidell, April 12, 1862. Official Records of Union and Confederate 
Names, Series H, Vol. 3, p. 327. 


audience officieuse' 8 with the Emperor. I very soon received 
a reply saying that the Emperor would receive me at two 


Little in the appearance of the gentleman who welcomed 
the Confederate envoy suggested a Napoleonic origin. Most 
visitors confronting the Emperor for the first time felt keen 
disappointment. The squat figure, the dull eyes, the hesitant 
speech, the exceedingly awkward carriage hardly seemed ap 
propriately to embody the man then generally acclaimed the 
master of Europe. It is true that Madame Recamier found 
the youthful Louis Napoleon poll, distingue, et taciturne, but 
the latter quality was the only one that impressed Americans 
who met the unsuccessful conspirator in New York in 1837. 
To Charles Greville, who encountered the Prince at Lady 
Blessington's, soon afterward, he was "a short, thickish, 
vulgar-looking man, without the slightest resemblance to his 
Imperial uncle, or any intelligence in his countenance." Judg 
ing from succeeding commentators, maturer years and lofty 
station had not greatly dignified the imperial presence. Two 
Americans, meeting Napoleon III at about the same time as 
Slidell, have left vivid and pungent pen portraits, which may 
serve as adequate introduction to the monarch who now 
pleasantly advanced, with outstretched palm, to greet his 
transatlantic guest. Neither the Emperor nor Empress had 
favorably impressed John Bigelow, who was presented for the 
first time at a ball in the Tuileries, in January, 1860. Eugenie 
was "a pretty woman; had a graceful figure; beautiful sloping 
shoulders and drooping eyelids; and yet there seemed to be 
nothing regal or sovereign in her appearance, nothing that 
indicated any comprehension of the part she and her husband 

* Semiofficial. 


were playing in the history of the world." "The Emperor also 
disappointed me. He is short, with broad shoulders, large 
chest, and barrel tapering off into two legs, so short as to seem 
very, very small. His head, too, seemed rather too large for 
his legs, and he looked, too, as the sailors say, 'all by the 
bows,' like a cat-fish. . . . Owing to the shortness of his legs, 
his walk is not graceful. He seems to advance first on one side 
and then the other as on a pivot, his head moving from side 
to side as if trying to keep time with his legs." 7 Two years 
afterward John Hay, Secretary of Legation at Paris, painted 
a corroborative, but even more uncomplimentary picture. 
"Short and stocky, he moves with a queer, side-long gait, like 
a gouty crab; a man so wooden-looking that you would expect 
his voice to come rasping out like a watchman's rattle. A 
complexion like crude tallow marked for Death whenever 
Death wants him to be taken sometime in half an hour, or 
left neglected by the Skeleton King for years, perhaps, if 
properly coddled. The moustache and imperial which the 
world knows, but ragged and bristly, concealing the mouth 
entirely, is moving a little nervously as the lips twitch. Eyes 
sleepily watchful furtive, stealthy, rather ignoble; like serv 
ants looking out of dirty windows and saying 'nobody at 
home' and lying as they say it. He stands there as still and 
passive as if carved in oak for a ship's figurehead." * 

Slidell, lacking the literary talents of Bigelow and John 
Hay, has left no personal description of Napoleon III; had he 
done so, it would probably have been less acid than these brief 
but illuminating sketches. Slidell had the same reason for 
admiring the Emperor that the two Yankees had for detesting 
him: he was a friend and champion of the South and never 
more so than on this afternoon when, with an effervescence 
unusual with him, he greeted the Confederate envoy. Na 
poleon began speaking in rapid French; though Slidell could 

7 Retrospections of an Active Life, by John Bigelow, Vol. 1, p. 24-6. 

8 The Life of John Hay, by William Roscoe Thayer, Vol. 1, pp. 235-236. 


handle this language for most colloquial purposes, probably 
his ear was not acute enough to detect what was obvious to 
true Parisians, that the Emperor spoke with a slight German 
accent, the result of his boyhood passed in Arenenberg. In 
cordiality the greeting left nothing to be desired. How sorry 
he was not to have met Slidell before ! Splendid news that in 
last evening's papers the Federal defeats before Richmond I 
His sympathies, Napoleon told Slidell, had always been with 
the South. Was not the South struggling for self-government 
and had that not been the great end to which his own life had 
been dedicated? He had always desired to show this sympathy 
in some practical way, but there was England, always un 
willing to cooperate! Several times France had approached 
the British Government in hope of joint action, never meeting 
with a favorable response. Still France could not act alone, 
though doubtless England would like to have her u draw the 
chestnuts from the fire for her benefit." But what were Mr. 
SlidelFs views? What could France do to help the Con 
federate cause? 

Slidell, having reached this critical point, requested leave 
to continue the interview in English; a request partly intended 
as a compliment, for Napoleon spoke excellent English and 
was extremely proud of his facility in that tongue. The Con 
federate plunged at once into the subject of Benjamin's latest 
instructions. He delicately outlined the reward that would 
come to the French treasury for acceding to his views. Break 
the blockade, urged Slidell, and the South would quickly 
win the war. He described the great mistake France had made 
in following the English attitude in this matter. The block 
ade was illegal, contravened the Treaty of Paris, and held 
untold mischief for France in the future. 

"I committed a great error," Napoleon replied, "and I 
now deeply regret it. France should never have respected 
the blockade. And she should have recognized the Con 
federacy." The time for such action was the preceding year, 


when all the Confederate ports were open and Southern armies 
were menacing Washington. 

"But what," he asked, almost in despair, "can now be done? 
To open the ports forcibly would be an act of war." 

There was no reason to fear the Yankees, Slidell protested; 
they were always making threats, which seldom materialized. 
See how they had backed down in the Trent affair! And now 
he unfolded Benjamin's scheme for financing the French Navy, 
and filling the French treasury with money, in case the appear 
ance of French war vessels at blockaded ports brought about 
war with the United States. 

"This proposition," Slidell concluded, "is made exclusively 
to France. My colleague in London knows nothing about it." 

"How am I to get the cotton?" Napoleon asked. 

Then Slidell touched upon one of the weakest spots in the 
Emperor's abundant vanity. Of all his war machines there 
was nothing of which he was so proud as of his new ironclad 
vessels, the Gloire, the Couronne, and the Normandie. The 
building of these ships had strained to the breaking point 
French relations with England. Certainly the ramshackle 
American Navy, Slidell insisted, could not stand up against 
their guns. He drew a picture for Napoleon's benefit of these 
men-of-war reducing to ashes New York, Slidell's native 
city, Boston, and Fortress Monroe a picture which the 
Emperor keenly enjoyed. He agreed with Slidell that the 
Gloire and her sisters, all by themselves, could end the block 
ade and with it the war. But again there was England 1 

Though Slidell does not record the Emperor's comment 
on his financial plan, he says that "it did not seem disagreeable" 
to him. But he made no commitment. Over this as over every 
phase of the conversation rose the shadow of English op 
position. Slidell and the Emperor discussed all phases of the 
situation mediation, recognition, a six months' armistice 
but the outcome was most unsatisfactory to the Con 
federate, despite imperial sympathy and personal kindness, 


for the fact that stood uppermost in his mind, as he left the 
presence, was that France would make no independent move, 
was still determined to leave the initiative to the British Gov 
ernment, and would acquiesce in whatever that Cabinet de 
cided. His favorite policy of driving a wedge between France 
and Britain, even when reenforced by a huge money bribe, 
stood little chance of success. 

"All that you say is true," concluded His Majesty, "but the 
policy of nations is controlled by their interests and not by 
their sentiments. It ought to be so. n And the sad fact was 
that the interests of France demanded that, in American af 
fairs, she should not act independently of Great Britain. All 
Slidell's denunciations of Britain and her lowered prestige in 
the world the periodical collapse of British prestige, it 
will be observed, is nothing new did not budge the imperial 

"Your Majesty," pleaded Slidell, "has now an opportunity 
of securing a faithful ally, bound to you not only by ties of 
gratitude, but by those more reliable a common interest 
and congenial habits." 

"Yes," replied the Emperor, "you have many families of 
French descent in Louisiana who yet preserve their habits and 

Pleasant personally as may have been this interview at Vichy 
in July, 1862, it was barren of results. Much as Napoleon 
would have welcomed the proffered subsidy, the price de 
manded of him was too great. His wily mind must have quickly 
detected the motive that really animated Benjamin and Slidell. 
He was not prepared to jettison the entente with Great Brit 
ain on American affairs, and thereby cast himself adrift in a 
world of European enemies. SlidelFs further consultations 
with the Emperor had no more satisfactory results. Cordial 
interviews followed at Saint-Cloud in October and at the 
Tuileries the following June; on these and other occasions 
Napoleon announced his willingness to recognize the Con- 


federacy provided Great Britain should do so first By 
this time one change, auspicious for Slidell, had taken place in 
the French Cabinet. Thouvenel, friend of the North and 
enemy to all Southern arguments, had been forced out of 
the Government. Slidell reported that Thouvenel's attitude 
toward the Confederacy was, at least in part, the cause of 
his dismissal, but in this he was mistaken. Thouvenel's opposi 
tion to Eugenie's Papal policy for he was strongly anti 
clerical had brought the two into conflict for a considerable 
time ; one violent scene over this issue had recently taken place 
in the Council, which the Empress regularly attended. In this 
meeting Eugenie, after denouncing Thouvenel, had rushed 
out of the room in a rage, leaving her imperial husband white 
and speechless. No Foreign Minister could long retain his 
office after such a scene. 

Thouvenel's successor, Drouyn de Lhuys, was sufficiently 
pro-Southern even for Slidell. But he could do nothing. Lord 
John Russell's move for recognition, already described, reached 
its crisis at the moment of this change. Thouvenel's opposition 
was one reason why it had failed, but his successor arrived 
on the scene too late to revive the expiring negotiations. A 
year later in the summer of 1863 Napoleon and De 
Lhuys attempted again to enlist England in a similar demarche. 
This episode, known in England as the Roebuck resolution, 
fills many pages in Parliamentary debates and usually occupies 
much space in histories of Confederate diplomacy, but it was 
not important. The fact that soon after negotiations began, 
the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg were fought, gave 
no hope of success. And the whole controversy soon degen 
erated into a farce. Roebuck, an eccentric character, crossed 
to Paris and had an intimate talk with Napoleon. Then, a 
few days afterward, he rose in Parliament and told the story, 
many of the details being most confidential, and damaging to 
the prestige of France. The Emperor, in an understandable 
anger, denied the truth of Roebuck's narrative and berated 


him for violating his confidence As a result the famous debate 
was concerned not so much with recognition of the Con 
f ederacy as with the question not yet settled whether Na 
poleon or Roebuck was a liar The proceeding did not enhance 
the imperial dignity and Napoleon III became more cautious 
than formerly in his approaches to the difficult American 

By this time, likewise, Slidell s usefulness as a diplomat 
had reached an end Sympathetic as he was to the Confederate 
cause the official attitude of Drouyn de Lhuys differed little 
from that of Thouvenel France, he repeatedly told Slidell, 
would recognize the Confederacy and defy the blockade when 
ever England set the example New European complications 
the insurrection in Poland, the menacing encroachment of 
Prussia were daily adding to Napoleon's troubles and mak 
mghim more and more dependent on cooperation with Britain 
And more important than all the Federal military position 
was changing in almost startling fashion its armies were now 
everywhere in the ascendant for the first time European 
statesmen began to realize that the Confederacy was fighting 
a losing cause After the summer of 1863, ShdelPs prestige 
in Paris consequently declined He did not follow Mason's 
example and close his headquarters but his latter period was 
full of bitterness and disappointment 

From the beginning the only hope of Confederate success 
in France had rested on Mexico His imperial designs in the 
Western Hemisphere had been the compelling reason for 
Napoleon's cordiality toward the Confederacy and its rep 
resentatives But its failure would spell doom for the fragile 
Mexican empire All Europe completely understood this 
above all Napoleon himself but Slidell never saw the issue 
quite so clearly This obtuseness brought him his greatest 
humiliation The Mexican conspirators m Pans constantly fed 
his hopes Guitterez de Estrada, whose unceasing importunities 
had fired the spirit of Eugenie, was one of the Southern 

Brown Photos 

MAXIMILIAN (1832-1867) 


envoy's confidants. In early 1864, Maximilian, after much 
vacillation, accepted the Mexican throne, and, in March, on 
the eve of his departure for Vera Cruz, spent a week in Paris* 
Slidell naturally expected to be received with open arms. Act 
ing on the advice of Guitterez, he sent the conventional peti 
tion for an audience. The reply acceded to the request, but 
set no time for the meeting. That, as Slidell well understood, 
was the polite formula of decimation. During the week that 
Maximilian remained in Paris, Slidell kept assiduously pound 
ing his door and demanding the promised interview; but 
Maximilian did not even answer his notes. The explanation 
was apparent to most observers. Maximilian now centred his 
hope of recognition on the Federal Government, not on the 
enfeebled Confederacy. He had been falsely informed that if 
he kept clear of the South the Lincoln Government would 
regard his schemes with a friendly eye, and this bare chance of 
winning the favor of Washington made him extremely cau 
tious. Not only did he cold-shoulder Slidell, but the French 
Government followed the same cue. In the autumn of 1864, 
Slidell could feel an increasing frigidity on every hand. The 
Tuileries and the "Villa Eugenie" at Biarritz welcomed him 
no more. Madame Slidell and Mesdemoiselles no longer ap 
peared at imperial balls. Drouyn de Lhuys ignored requests 
for interviews. In all .disputes involving North and South the 
French now turned a friendly face to the Federal Government. 
When the Alabama appeared in the harbor of Cherbourg the 
French ordered it to leave, thus forcing that famous vessel 
into combat and destruction with the Federal warship 
Kearsarge waiting outside for its prey. When the Rappahan- 
nock, a Confederate unarmed vessel, put in at Calais, she was 
interned. Napoleon had himself furtively instigated the con 
struction of Confederate warships in French shipyards, but, 
at the demand of the Federal Government, he now vetoed their 
delivery. If we seek the explanation for this new friendliness 
to the Federal cause we shall find it in Virginia, where Grant, 


despite fierce opposition, was progressing in his slow advance 
on Richmond, and in Georgia and the Carolinas, where Sher 
man was blasting his way through all the Confederate de 
fenses, every day signaling a new victory, and bringing nearer 
the inevitable end. Napoleon now knew that Maximilian was 
doomed and that the withdrawal of the French forces in 
Mexico was unavoidable. His whole American policy had 
been based upon a false assumption the invincibility of the 
South and the only course remaining was to extricate him 
self from a dangerous position as gracefully as he could. 

Benjamin now began to rage more bitterly against France 
than he had against England. Of the two countries, the course 
of the British, in his eyes, was more honorable toward the 
South. Slidell, in his resentment, became indiscreet. He in 
formed callers knowing that the words would be repeated in 
official quarters that peace would soon be established be 
tween North and South ; one of the stipulations of the treaty, 
he added, would be an alliance between the two previously 
contending powers to enforce the Monroe Doctrine and expel 
all European adventurers from American soil. With only two 
members of the Imperial court did Slidell keep up friendly rela 
tions, and these were personal, rather than official. Slidell had 
found real companions in Persigny and Morny ; the three had 
tastes in common, especially a fondness for cards. Yet this 
association also came to an end, under conditions that involved 
the displeasure of Napoleon. John Bigelow tells the story, 
as he received it, several years after the war, from William 
Preston who, for a few fleeting weeks, held the purely decora 
tive post of Confederate Minister to the Court of Maximilian. 
"While playing at the Club one night with Persigny and de 
Morny, among others, Slidell stated what he had learned 
through de Haviland about a certain promise and request in 
high quarters. One of the dukes y for in those days it was 
the custom to call both Persigny and de Morny 'duke' 
said that had never made any such request. Slidell 


reaffirmed his statement. The duke repeated in yet more em 
phatic terms that it was not true. Slidell rose from his seat and 
with some vehemence, exclaimed, 'By God! No man, whether 
Duke or Emperor, shall ever say that what John Slidell said 
was not true!' " 9 Morny, greatly offended, reported the epi 
sode to the Emperor. That ended Slidell's standing at the Im 
perial court. Requests for audiences were denied from this 
time forward. Only once again did the Confederate meet his 
Imperial Majesty, and this at a time when he was majesty 
no more. It was in 1871, when both the Confederacy and the 
French Empire lay in ruins. In 1871 the two exiles one 
representative of the lost cause of France, the other that of 
America came together at Chiselhurst, England, the place 
in which the dethroned Emperor had found peaceful asylum. 
The angry mood of Slidell's last days in Paris had vanished 
in a common misfortune, and the two men grasped hands, 
though they were so affected that it was some time before they 
could speak. In a little more than a year both were dead. Of 
all the bitter survivors of the Civil War, Slidell was probably 
the bitterest. He never saw his native land again, dying at 
Cowes in 1871. Both daughters married Frenchmen one, 
as already related, Baron d'Erlanger, the other the Comte de 
Saint-Romain, whose daughter is the wife of that Colonel 
Marchand, who, as commander of the French troops at 
Fashoda, almost precipitated a war with Great Britain in 

9 Retrospections of an Active Life, Vol. 2, pp. 200-201. 




THE Cabinet post that gave Davis his greatest trouble was 
the one which, in that military administration, might seem to 
be the most important of all the Secretaryship of War. 
Change, indeed, was the order of the day In all departments. 
The Cabinet comprised only six portfolios, but seventeen in 
cumbents filled these several offices in four years of war. 
Stephen R. Mallory, who headed the Navy, was the only 
Cabinet member to serve the entire Presidential term. Three 
Secretaries of State, four Attorneys General, two Secretaries 
of the Treasury, two Postmasters General, and six Secretaries 
of War such was the personal record of the Davis Ad 
ministration, On this basis unfriendly critics have drawn con 
clusions unfavorable to Davis as a manager of men. Ac 
cording to John A. Wise, there were six Secretaries of War 
for a paradoxical reason because there was really u no 
Secretary of War." The men who nominally filled the place 
were merely "clerks," "underlings" ; the President himself ad 
ministered the department. These alternating ghosts might 
flutter through the executive building in Richmond, but it 
was Jefferson Davis who organized armies, appointed officers, 
supervised military campaigns, and attended even to the 
details of the office. 

The first War Secretary who succeeded Benjamin, George 
W. Randolph of Virginia, experienced to the full these assertive 
qualities in the Chief. Here was a different social type from 
most of the men who surrounded Davis. The son of Thomas 
Jefferson's oldest daughter, Martha, Randolph was an "aristo 
crat." Educated amid his New England relatives in Cam- 


bridge, Massachusetts and at the University of Virginia, 
Randolph had gained some first-hand experience with war; 
a service of six years in the United States Navy, several 
months' experience in the Confederate Army, had won for 
him a brigadier-generalship, and the respect of Beauregard 
and Joseph E. Johnston. Perhaps the favor with which these 
men regarded Randolph explains the ill fortune into which 
he quickly fell. Both esteemed Randolph the ablest of the half 
dozen men who filled the Secretary's seat. Many others, civil 
ian and military, agreed with this judgment. Randolph's 
troubles with Davis, however, set in immediately. He quickly 
discovered that his office was an honorary one, that the real war 
lord of the South resided in the executive mansion. The eight 
months that Randolph nominally acted were therefore harrow 
ing. To obtain his knowledge of important military decisions 
after they had been made, to learn of many military appoint 
ments for the first time from the press such surprises were 
hardly gratifying to a man who really aspired to serve his 
country. The inevitable parting, which came in November, 
1862, was the one exciting event of Randolph's official life. 
General Grant's menacing approach to Vicksburg in Novem 
ber, 1862, found the Confederate armies in the Mississippi 
Valley dispersed. Deciding to assert his authority, Randolph 
instructed General Holmes, then operating in Arkansas, to 
send ten thousand men across the Mississippi and form a 
junction with Johnston. No doubt exists to-day that this was 
the proper military move. But Randolph's initiative angered 
Davis exceedingly. For his subordinate to make such a vital 
decision over the President's head could not be endured. From 
the President's office issued a summary demand to Randolph 
to rescind his order. Randolph's reply was a tart letter of 
resignation. President Davis, perhaps taken aback, suggested 
an interview; could not their differences be discussed? Ran 
dolph declined. "As you thus without notice and in terms 
excluding inquiry retired," Davis wrote, "nothing remains 


but to give you this formal acceptance of your resignation.'* 
Randolph's successor, Brigadier General Gustavus Smith, 
a gentleman whom the outbreak of war discovered serving 
as Street Commissioner of New York City, occupied the 
post for three days. Then Mr. Davis elevated James A. 
Seddon, an accomplished but subservient Secretary who func 
tioned virtually for the rest of the conflict. Seddon, like Ran 
dolph, was a Virginian of lofty social origin. It is important 
to emphasize this point, for Seddon's family and associations 
had an important bearing upon his work. Davis retrieved him 
from an environment, in Goochland County on the James, 
which perfectly symbolized the ideas and traditions that had 
drawn North and South asunder. At this period the James River 
grandees claimed the highest eminence in the caste system of 
their state. Two or three generations previously, the Potomac 
region might have disputed such an ascendency, but the North 
ern Neck had long since suffered decline; its once fertile 
tobacco farms had relapsed to underbrush, but the valley of 
the James still preserved much of its historic splendor. Here 
tobacco raising was still a profitable enterprise, and abound 
ing acres of corn also gave it economic strength. Sabot Hill, 
the country house maintained by the Seddons, was not one of 
the most pretentious Virginia establishments, but few exceeded 
it in the graces of Virginia life. Seddon himself was a good 
linguist, a deep reader, a scholastic advocate of fine-spun 
Southern doctrine, and a philosopher deriving from the acad 
emy of John Taylor of Caroline rather than from that of 
Jefferson Davis. He was a believer in absolute state sover 
eignty, in nullification, and in other recondite tenets not espe 
cially popular in 1862 even in Richmond. He gave Sabot Hill 
a quality of classic culture and of the best old-time Virginia 
statecraft an atmosphere as far removed from the new- 
rich ostentation of Alabama and Mississippi as from the stolid 
intellectualism of New England; it was his wife, the former 
Sally Bruce, who contributed the grace that made it the 


rendezvous of the best in the South. Witty, vivacious, a bril 
liant talker and letter writer, Mrs. Seddon enjoyed a kind 
of national fame. She was the subject of one of the most popu 
lar songs of the day, 'The Gay and Charming Sally," written 
for her by an intimate friend, the Yankee poet, Nathaniel P. 
Willis. When Sally and her sister, Ellen Bruce, appeared in 
Richmond, in the early forties, the town, then at the peak of 
its prestige, at once capitulated; her marriage to Seddon, a 
Member of Congress representing the Richmond district, in 
a way foreshadowed the coming Secession, for they made their 
city home in that austere "mansion" of Clay Street which sub 
sequently became the "White House" of the Confederacy. 
Seddon's frail health impeded his career as a practical states 
man; he retired permanently to his books, his music, and his 
circle in the Valley of the James, from which polite obscurity 
Jefferson Davis recalled him abruptly in November, 1862, 
to take charge of a cantankerous executive department in 
which four men had already failed. 

The selection of a man of position in Virginia for this 
Secretaryship was not unwelcome to a snobbish group in Rich 
mond that liked to ridicule the middle-class atmosphere of 
official circles. Davis himself and his wife had not been spared 
in current gossip. Readers of Mrs. Chestnut's Diary will find 
recorded several of the sharp things whispered of the so 
cial failings of the Richmond "White House." Virginia, having 
entered the Confederacy three months after its establishment, 
when most of the important offices had been filled, had held 
only a minor rank in the Administration. This omission de 
tracted or, at least, so the blue bloods said not only from 
its statesmanship, but from its dignity and grace. Davis cer 
tainly tried to remedy this defect. His selection of Hunter in 
the State Department, Mason for the English post, and 
Randolph for War were all attempts to "recognize" the most 
famous of Southern states. Though not one of these heavy- 
handed Virginians had proved a success, Davis was still un- 


discouraged. His ambition to keep Virginia at his council 
table, at least in form, probably explains, more than anything 
else, the surprising elevation of Seddon. For it cannot be said 
that other qualifications for his disturbing post were pre 
eminent. Two terms in Congress, not notable for achievement, 
and a moderately successful law practice in Richmond formed 
his only background. When the fact is added that Seddon's 
physical and nervous frame lacked vigor, and that he was 
subject to frequent spells of invalidism, the chances of suc 
cess seem even less promising. The ascetic portraits of Seddon 
that survive the long, well-modeled head, the sharp nose, 
the thin-featured face, the dark beard, the hair curling over 
the ears, the whole surmounted by a black skullcap suggest 
nothing so much as a Jewish rabbi. Jones, the War clerk and 
diarist, who delighted in macabre metaphors, paints a for 
bidding picture. "Secretary Seddon is gaunt and emaciated, 
with long straggling hair, mingled gray and black. He looks 
like a dead man galvanized into muscular animation. His 
eyes are shrunken and his features have the hue of a man who 
has been in his grave a full month. He is an orator and a man 
of fine education, but in bad health, being much afflicted with 
neuralgia." x 

After this it is not surprising to learn that Seddon, 
though given to thought, was deficient in humor, not con 
genial to the ruck of humankind, and not accessible to the 
chance callers who constantly besieged executive departments. 
Indeed Seddon had not long been established in Richmond 
when tirades against his aloofness began to echo in the press 
and in Congressional orations. Until his incumbency, the 
Secretary's door had readily swung open to all comers. Sed 
don introduced a schoolboy's slate, upon which intruders 
were requested to write their names and the nature of their 
mission. To modern eyes, some such precaution seems in 
dispensable, but, in those easy-going republican days, the in- 

*A Rebel War Clertes Diary } VoU I, p. 312. 


novation proved a bad beginning for Seddon. Charges of 
"aristocrat" and ' 'James River exclusiveness" echoed as far 
as Georgia and Mississippi and created feeling not only against 
the Secretary, but against the "imperial regime" that was sup 
posed to be rapidly taking shape in Richmond. To one man, 
however, Seddon was always tactful, always yielding. He 
amiably accepted the Davis interpretation of that Constitu 
tional provision which made the President commander in chief 
of the Army and Navy. Any qualities such as those constantly 
displayed by the arrogant, frequently brutal, but always mas 
terful Stanton in Washington never appeared in the opposite 
department in Richmond. Seddon, unlike his predecessor Ran 
dolph, made no attempt to take a hand in appointing generals, 
moving troops, or planning campaigns. Soon after his arrival, 
Joseph E, Johnston asked him to do what Randolph had lost 
his job for doing transfer reinforcements from Holmes' s 
army in Arkansas to the threatened Mississippi field. "The 
suggestion was not adopted or noticed," dryly records that 
chronicler. 2 Davis treated Seddon just as he had treated his 
predecessors, though in more courtly fashion. He took im 
portant decisions, and sometimes not always informed 
him what had been done in his department; and this sort of 
thing Seddon quietly accepted. Moreover, he adopted all the 
Presidential enthusiasms and hatreds. The hostility Davis 
constantly showed to Beauregard and Joseph E. Johnston 
Seddon made his own. The strange admiration Davis lavished 
on Braxton Bragg, Seddon shared. When Davis brought that 
hapless commander to Richmond, and installed him in the 
War office as "military adviser," Seddon did not object, al 
though in a sense that action involved his own supersession. 

2 Battles and Leaders of the CM Wat, Vol. II, p. 203. 




But, submissively as Seddon accepted the dominance of 
Davis, there were other persons and groups in the Con 
federacy whom he did not suffer so complacently. His nearly 
three years of service, indeed, consisted of a constant battle 
with an assortment of strange characters as obnoxious to him 
on social as on administrative grounds. Seddon's struggle with 
the governors forms one of the most profitable studies in Con 
federate history. It brings to light one of the greatest weak 
nesses in the Southern republic and almost in itself gives an 
explanation for its failure. There are those who believe 
and the number is increasing that the Confederacy col 
lapsed, not through inherent military weakness, but through 
certain defects that lay at the basis of the structure. These 
defects were social, political, above all the disintegrating 
doctrines of government which served as foundation for the 
experiment. It was a familiar idea with Davis and his com 
peers that two distinct inharmonious nations existed within 
the old Union, and that the schism of 1861 was the inevitable 
outcome of this fact. That may have been the case, but there 
was another incongruity, equally marked, on which appropriate 
emphasis was not laid. There were two separate discordant 
nations within the Confederacy itself. Seddon, Secretary of 
War, represented one the rather strange combination of 
ancient Southern traditionist and get-rich-quick cotton planter 
that had joined forces against the North; while the sections 
that made his administration so difficult the populous, non- 
slaveholding, and, in the main, poverty-stricken mountain 
classes represented the other. These two unsympathetic 
forces were constantly working at cross purposes in the Con 
federate organization, and their unceasing conflict, in the end, 
accomplished almost as much in destroying it as the Federal 
armies. Herein lies the chief interest of Seddon's career. 


The common belief that Mason and Dixon's line formed the 
boundary between North and South is not precisely true. The 
actual frontier was far more irregular. To include the region 
where Union sentiment prevailed, in places overwhelmingly, it 
would be necessary to indicate a huge peninsula, striking 
from the Pennsylvania boundary into the heart of the South 
as far as northern Georgia and Alabama. Here we have a 
great expanse nearly two hundred miles wide and five hundred 
deep, with the Blue Ridge mountains forming roughly its 
eastern boundary and the Cumberland and other continuous 
ranges its western. In territorial extent it comprises at least 
a third of the country that lies south of the Ohio and east of 
the Mississippi. It formed a huge area of discontent, placed 
in the heart of the Southern Republic. This area comprehended 
great stretches of western Virginia, eastern Tennessee, western 
North Carolina, as well as generous territory in northern 
Georgia and Alabama. This part of the South had never 
shown much enthusiasm for secession. Had the decision rested 
with it, there would have been no Civil War. Even after the 
outbreak, it remained as a whole though there were oases 
of Confederate adherence loyal to the Union. So in 
tensely raged the hostility of the western part of Virginia to 
the Confederacy that it seceded from the Old Dominion, 
set up the state of West Virginia, and attached itself to the 
Federal Union. Only by the barest chance is there to-day not 
similarly a state of East Tennessee, for a strong movement 
started, in the early days of the Civil War, to form such 
a commonwealth, and the loyalty of this region to the Union 
created great difficulties for the South. The Lincoln party, in 
1864, recognized the Federal attachment of East Tennessee 
by selecting its most illustrious son, Andrew Johnson, as 
candidate for Vice President a gesture that had the un 
looked-for result of making him seventeenth President of 
the United States. 

The same pro-Unionism prevailed in great stretches of the 


other districts outlined above. These regions had voted against 
secession, when that issue was tested at the ballot box; and 
this feeling remained a powerful influence during four years 
of war. In origin, occupation, and manners this peninsula of 
hostility had little in common with the cotton planters who 
had brought on the struggle. The largest strain in their racial 
amalgam was Scotch-Irish; in religion they were Baptists, 
Methodists, Presbyterians not Anglicans, the predominat 
ing faith of the more polished elements; in occupation they 
were small-scale farmers, cultivating with their own hands 
their own plots, seldom owning slaves; in politics they had 
been, for the most part, Whigs. These "up-country" people 
disliked their contemporaries of the Piedmont and the coastal 
plains on both political and personal grounds. Constant efforts 
had been under way for a century to restrict their political 
power. Ridiculed as "hillbillies," "crackers," "poor whites," 
or other opprobious names, they maintained an independent, 
sturdy life as far removed from the existence of a Seddon or 
a Lee as from that of a New England farmer. In modern times 
these people, "our contemporary ancestors," as they have been 
happily called, have become of great interest to students of 
folklore and literature; they figure extensively in modern 
fiction and have even reached the theatre. Their solitary exist 
ence, far from cities and railroads, has caused this people to 
keep alive the language, the songs, the legends, and many of 
the customs of the settlers of two centuries and more ago. 
Illiterate and rude, as, until modern times, these mountaineers 
were, even law-defying and given to family feuds, they still 
exemplified most of the sturdy British virtues of the race from 
which they sprang. 

For many of the troubles that sapped the Davis Govern 
ment these forces were responsible. The truth that Southerners 
were not unanimous in supporting the cause comes at first as 
a surprise. So glamorous have been the conventional pictures 
of Southern loyalty that one is hardly prepared to learn that 


the Confederacy also had its squalid side. It escaped none of 
the evils that beset a nation engaged in the unlovely business 
of war. With its ugly phases in the Federal Army treason, 
desertion, evasion of duty, profiteering we have long been 
familiar ; only recently have we realized that all these inevitable 
accompaniments of war were just as conspicuous in the South,* 
In practice these disrupting phenomena harmed the Confeder 
acy far more than they did the Union, because its men and 
resources, as compared to those of the Federal States, were 
limited. The North was afflicted by segments in its population 
who worked against the cause, but it did not contain a huge, 
almost homogeneous minority almost unanimously opposing 
national effort. This mountain country has always been cele 
brated for secret organizations, lawlessly engaged in forcing 
their will in defiance of constituted authorities. In pre-Revo- 
lutionary days these bands were known as Regulators; in the 
early times of the Republic there were the Whiskey Boys 
moonshiners bound together to fight the tax gatherer; in a 
more recent period they have been reincarnated as the Ku Klux 
Klan. In the same way, from 1861 to 1865, several societies 
flourished whose business it was to fight the Confederacy and 
do everything in their power to accomplish its destruction. 
They paraded many high-sounding titles; they called them 
selves Peace and Constitutional Societies, Heroes of America, 
and the like; they had a bewildering array of passwords, signs, 
and grips; the brethren were bound together by most blood 
curdling oaths, and their elaborate rituals distilled hatred to 
the Confederacy and loyalty to the Union. Scarcely a county 
in the domain of disaffection southwestern Virginia, eastern 
Tennessee, western North and South Carolina, northern 
Georgia and Alabama was unrepresented in these secret 
orders. Their object was to obtain enlistments for the Union 
army, to prevent recruiting for the Confederacy, to oppose tax 

*Two fooks lXsloyalty in the Confederacy, by Georgia Lee Tatum (1934), and 
Desertion During the Civil Wat, by Ella Loan (1928), illustrate this condition in great 


measures adopted in Richmond, to fight conscription laws, to 
stimulate desertion, and to agitate peace on the basis of a 
return to the Union. Their methods were terroristic; the mem 
bership was large, many thousands finding their way into the 
Federal forces. Anyone who studies the pension history of the 
Civil War is astonished to discover, on the rolls, the great 
number of ex-Union soldiers living in this Blue Ridge country 
of the South; and this is only one tangible evidence of the 
extent to which the "mountain boys" persisted in their old 
allegiance and testified to it by fighting with Grant and 

An even greater number showed their aversion to "Jeffy 
Davis," as they called the Southern President, in less heroic 
ways. One dark feature of the Confederate army on which 
the romantic school of writers lays little stress is its record 
for desertion. Desertion in the Federal forces was just as 
extensive, perhaps even more so; but somehow this does not 
seem so unnatural as that the South should likewise have had 
its large proportion of skulkers, embusques, bounty jumpers, 
stragglers, and runaways. The brilliant spectacle of nine million 
people springing to arms in defense of an independent existence 
is one that does not easily die. In the first year, indeed, there 
was much in the spontaneous volunteering of the "chivalry of 
the South" that justifies this exalted picture. Secretary Walker 
reported that he had more than 200,000 volunteers whom 
he could not use. In that early day Southerners regarded the 
war as a few months' holiday; a single battle, It was believed, 
would settle the matter ; and an eagerness seized everybody to 
get into the fray. After the first few months, however, espe 
cially after the victory of Bull Run had been succeeded by 
Confederate disasters, and the truth dawned that the country 
was facing a long, bloody war, this popular zeal began to cooL 
No better proof is necessary than that in April, 1862, about 
a year after hostilities started, the Confederacy was compelled 
to resort to conscription. This unexpected method of raising 
troops gave the "mountain boys" their opportunity. A con- 


scription agent appearing in their region was about as welcome 
as a press gang in eighteenth-century London. Such emissaries 
were frequently met with shotguns. More than one left his 
dead body on the ground. Why, said these sons of the soil, 
should they sacrifice their lives for Virginia "aristocrats" and 
wealthy cotton planters ? Were there not signs in plenty that 
it was a "rich man's war and a poor man's fight"? That pro 
vision which caused so much dissatisfaction in Yankee-land 
the purchase of "substitutes" by rich men was also a feature 
of the Confederate conscription law, and was about as popular 
south of the Potomac as north. The system also exempted 
owners of twenty slaves or more; and the "twenty-nigger 
law" similarly seemed discriminatory to the mountain peas 
antry. Here were the slave owners, the men responsible for 
the war, living in safety and comfort at home, while the thrifty, 
nonslaveowning, small farmers were being dragged from their 
little cabins to fight the battles of the plutocrats. 

Back of all this lay the century-old hostility of the "up- 
country" to the Piedmont and Tidewater. The mountaineers 
simply did not like the overlords who were riding high in 
Richmond and had no intention of promoting their cause by 
force of arms. Nor was this hostility entirely confined to the 
mountain region ; there were other great blocs of opposition, 
especially in southern Alabama, the southeastern piney woods 
of Mississippi, the bayous of Louisiana, the swamps of Florida 
and great stretches of Arkansas and Texas. Its most de 
moralizing sign was the high desertion rate in all Southern 
armies. The evil, marked in the earlier days, proved a constant 
discouragement to Secretary Randolph, who explained the 
failure to follow up Southern victories by the large-scale 
desertion that followed each one. The habit became more 
pronounced as the contest wore on; after 1863, Confederate 
soldiers left the armies in droves. Grant said that, in 1864, 
the enemy lost a regiment a day by desertion; in March, 1865, 
a whole brigade of Lee's forces decamped, and that general 
wrote bitterly to the War Department of his losses from this 


cause. "The condition of things in the mountain districts of 
North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama" 
such was the statement made by Judge Campbell, Assistant 
Secretary of War, to Seddon in March, 1863 "menaces 
the existence of the Confederacy as fatally as either of the 
armies of the United States." The historian of this subject, 
Ella Lonn, has collected statistics showing 103,400 desertions 4 
from the Confederate army. In a speech delivered at Macon, 
Georgia, in September, 1864, President Davis estimated the 
number of deserters from Hood's army as nearly two thirds 
of all then enrolled. "Two thirds of our men are absent; some 
sick, some wounded, but most of them absent without leave." 5 
After the evacuation of Corinth and this was as early as 
May, 1862 Sherman found several thousand Confederate 
deserters in the woods around Booneville. Nor were all Con 
federate deserters craven. Thousands crossed into the Federal 
lines and "volunteered" for service in the Union army; but a 
much larger number were impartial, nonbelligerent creatures 
who refused to fight on either side. They hid in the caves nu 
merous in the mountain country; frequently they carved out 
dugouts in the sides of hills, betook themselves to the ever 
glades of Florida or the cane brakes of Mississippi. But the 
time came when they made no pretense at concealment ; deser 
tion developed into so popular a practice that the men could 
be found on most Southern highways, or the streets of cities 
they even openly displayed themselves in Richmond. 



The chief interest of Seddon' s labors is his incessant battle 
with this element. The grander aspect of the secretaryship 
engaged little of his time; the main tasks left for Seddon 

4 Desertion During the Civil War, by Ella Lonn, p. 231. 

5 Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist, Vol. VI, p. 343. 


therefore and in these also the presidential oversight was 
always vigilant concerned the recruitment, provisioning, 
and munitioning of the armies. In this routine labor his troubles 
at once began. Seddon came to his office at a critical time. The 
war passion which early swept over the Confederacy had 
subsided by November, 1862. It is true that the year which 
witnessed his elevation proved to be the most glorious in Con 
federate history. The Federal victories that had followed 
Bull Run, culminating in the capture of New Orleans, had given 
way to even greater successes by Confederate troops. The 
defeat of McClellan's forces before Richmond signalized also 
the rise of a great military leader in Robert E. Lee, and the 
rout of Pope at Second Bull Run heightened expectations of 
a speedy Confederate triumph. Ordinarily such performances 
should have rekindled the early fire and made the business of 
raising and training armies an easy matter. However, they 
did not have this effect. The first conscription law, of April, 
1862, which enrolled all capable men between eighteen and 
thirty-five in the Confederate army, did not accomplish its 
purpose; almost simultaneously with Seddon's arrival in the 
War Office, the second conscription act, raising the military 
age to forty-five, was adopted. Seddon's official career was 
engaged in desperate attempts to enforce these laws. The con 
test has its piquant side, significant of the social and economic 
distinctions that split the Confederacy in two, and really 
destroyed its military energies. On one side we have the old 
"Virginia cavalier," James A. Seddon, the upholder of slavery, 
the standard-bearer of all traditional influences tifet made up 
the revered planter, and, on the other, the fierce, unruly, un 
cultivated slaveless pioneering stock of the Alleghenies. This 
latter contingent also had its leaders far more vigorous, 
racy, and, in some cases, more able than the Tidewater chief 
tain; two of these in particular, Joseph Emerson Brown of 
Georgia and Zebulon Baird Vance of North Carolina, did 
perhaps as much as Grant and Sherman to destroy the Southern 


Republic. At least they in company with such more schol 
arly, theoretic statesmen as Alexander H. Stephens, Robert 
Toombs, and Robert Barnwell Rhett can be taken as the 
commanders of disorganization which rendered the Confeder 
acy helpless in the face of the smashing, unified military power 
of the Federal Government. 

"Who the devil is Joe Brown?" asked Robert Toombs, in 
1857, first hearing that the Democratic party of Georgia had 
selected as its candidate for governor an unknown, uncouth 
u mountain boy" from its western recesses. Toombs and others 
obtained a complete answer in the next seven years, for Brown 
was not only elected in this first campaign, but served as 
Governor until 1865 all through the Civil War. No more 
animated, colorful, and obstreperous character ever filled an 
official chair. Anyone more removed from the cultivated Secre 
tary of War could hardly be imagined. Yet for Brown's 
character was a complex of contradictions he was, himself, 
in the early period, a prophet of Secession, and no man, in 
the four years of warfare, was more voluble in asserting his 
loyalty to the Confederate cause. In spirit, in determination, 
in wrongheadedness, even in fanaticism, Brown suggests no 
one so much as a certain Northern character of the same name 
who frequently came in for his bitterest revilings the de 
parted incendiary of Osawatomie and Harper's Ferry. Both 
hark back, for their prototypes, to the Old Testament. For 
Joseph, like John, found his main Inspiration in the old Hebrew 
worthies; New England never produced a more hidebound 
devotee of israel, a more Puritanical adherent of a pleasure- 
denying daily regimen. Brown did not smoke, drink, or chew 
something really unusual in his day; he was the strictest of 
Sabbatarians, and signalized his first term by a battle waged 
to prevent Sunday trains and Sunday mails. A fanatic of ex 
tremely narrow- kind, Brown looked the part. A patriarchal 
figure, with expansive white beard, the outer strands reposing 
on his chest; long locks of darker hair sweeping wavelike about 


the ears; a head and face of classic Anglo-Saxon type 
lengthy, narrow, with a high forehead and thin protruding 
nose; a determined, tightly pressed mouth; an erect slender 
figure it is not strange that the "better" classes in Georgia 
viewed with dismay the sudden leap into prominence of this 
free-ranging child of the distant "azure hills." This feeling 
found expression in T. R. R. Cobb's catalogue of possible 
Confederate Presidential candidates in February, 1861; "even 
Joe Brown is talked about" he wrote his wife. For Brown's 
qualities of character, as well as his rough and ready exterior, 
had by this time made him a dreaded person. The fury of 
combat gleamed in his fierce blue eye. Nothing delighted him 
so much as a good row. Stubborn, full of arrogance of opinion, 
sticking to an idea to the last merely because it was his own; 
the extremest of egoists; invariably identifying his own prej 
udices with the supreme welfare of the state; never forgetting 
his humble origin and always conscious of the contempt it 
brought him; concerned only for the good opinion of the 
masses who worshipped him and who repeatedly reflected 
him to the governorship in face of the many efforts of the 
fashionable to relegate him to private life; and with it all 
vigorous, able, vital, of untiring energy, possessing an easy, 
vituperative eloquence Brown was really, beside the pallid 
figure of the deprecating, ineffective Seddon, a powerful, even 
magnetic leader of men. 

"I was brought up among the working class," Brown once 
exclaimed in a speech. "I rose from the mass of the people. 
They took me by the hand and sustained me because they be 
lieved I was true to them. I was one of them and they have 
never forsaken me in any instance, when the popular voice 
could be heard." Herein we have the key to his character. 
As Andrew Johnson was always publicly boasting of his 
"plebeian origin," so Brown never once forgot his own begin 
nings, and his hostility to men of loftier breed, reminiscent 
of the great Tennesseean, had much influence on his public 


policy. He just as scrupulously dressed the part. A broad- 
brimmed stovepipe hat, a broadcloth shad-belly coat, a gold- 
headed cane, an enormous fob watch such was the accepted 
Georgia garb of statesmanship in antebellum days; but trap 
pings like these the man of the people disclaimed, always ap 
pearing in gray homespun, the wool grown on his beloved west 
ern hills and woven by the women of the log cabins in which he 
felt so much at home in fact, in one of them he had been 

Brown's speech abounded in those old English survivals 
which are the joy of modern philologists ; Chaucer would have 
understood these phrases, though many of his contemporaries 
at Milledgeville found them outside their ken. Not that the 
man was destitute of education; indeed many of the statesmen 
who smiled at his homely idiom trailed far behind Brown in 
mental acquirements. Born in Pickens County, South Carolina, 
in 1821, carried as a child into the bordering Union County 
of Georgia, Joseph E. Brown came of the most authentic 
Anglo-Saxon stock. His earliest opportunities, however, were 
of the primitive sort to which this region has been limited 
almost up to the present time. As a boy he cultivated a small 
patch of land on the side of a hill, carrying his potatoes and 
cabbages into town each Saturday, snatching a few fugitive 
hours now and then for brief lessons at a rural school. In 1 846 
he spent a year studying law at Yale, and, returning to his 
own country, soon picked up a living practice. But politics 
from the first became his one interest. Though not a rabble- 
rouser, Brown's eloquence possessed that intimate, friendly 
quality that quickly made him a popular leader. His temper 
ance principles proved something of a handicap, for free 
whiskey, dispensed by rising statesmen, was then the requisite 
of a successful campaign; but Brown did get into the State 
Senate, was afterward elected judge, holding court in moun 
tain log cabins, and finally, to the astonishment of the blue 


bloods who had for decades monopolized that office, fought 
his way into the Governor's chair. 

The time of his advent, 1857, was an exciting one. His atti 
tude on the great national issue seems at first incongruous. 
For Brown, mountain boy that he was, and sympathizer with 
his people in their conflict with the seaboard, was almost a 
Tidewater Virginian in his political tenets. The Whig heresies 
of Stephens and Toornbs never affected him. Despite his en 
vironment, he cared little for the Federal Union. He stood, 
above all, for the absolute sovereignty of the state. No slave 
owner himself, he adopted extremist proslavery opinions. He 
knew that this agitation would lead to war, and was quite 
ready to engage in one for his favorite doctrine the complete, 
untrammeled independence of each and every state. Thus as 
Governor, Brown showed main interest in what would be 
called to-day "preparedness." He believed, in view of the 
approaching contest, that every Georgian should possess a 
rifle and learn how to use it. So he devoted his energies to 
training the state militia always keeping foremost in mind 
the defense of Georgia. In the election of 1860, his attitude 
was uncompromising. Alexander Stephens might declaim 
against using Lincoln's election as a reason for Secession, but 
not Brown. After November, 1860, he, foremost among 
Georgians, demanded that the state follow the example of 
South Carolina. All attempts to patch up the quarrel Brown 
regarded as dangerous shilly-shallying. His activities had the 
greatest influence on the crisis. Had Georgia refused to secede, 
the Southern movement would probably have failed. And, until 
late January of 1861, Georgia's attitude was much in doubt. 
Brown's part in swinging the state for Secession thus had much 
to do in precipitating the Civil War. In fact, Brown's cantan 
kerous character finds a striking illustration in the contra 
dictory role he played in this event. Few statesmen did so much 
in starting the Confederacy as this stern, unbending orator of 


the Blue Ridge, and few, after it was organized, did so much 
to destroy it. In this Brown would have seen no discrepancy. 
His motive, both in seceding from the Union, and subsequently 
in seceding from the Confederacy, for his behavior 
amounted practically to that, was the same : an unyielding 
devotion to that principle of State independence and State 
individualism which formed almost the only item in his political 


Brown's companion Governor in North Carolina was a 
man of different type. For Zebulon B. Vance had formerly 
possessed one loyalty that Brown had never shown a pro 
found devotion to the Federal Union. Brown's insistence on 
Secession was immediate but it was something to which Vance 
came most reluctantly. When news of Lincoln's call for troops 
reached North Carolina in April, 1861, Vance was addressing 
an angry meeting in Buncombe County, called to protest 
against the secession of the state. "I was addressing a large 
and excited crowd," Vance afterwards said, 6 "large numbers 
of whom were armed, and literally had my arm extended up 
ward In pleading for the Union of the fathers, when the 
telegraphic news was announced of the firing on Fort Sumter 
and the President's call for seventy-five thousand volunteers. 
When my hand came down from that impassioned gesticula 
tion, it fell slowly and sadly by the side of a Secessionist. I 
immediately, with altered voice and manner, called upon the 
assembled multitude to volunteer, not to fight against, but for 
South Carolina. I said, if war must come, I preferred to be 
with my own people." 

Similar as Brown and Vance were in origin for Vance 
came from the extreme western region of North Carolina, 
in training, in outlook, in human attributes, the men had little 

6 In a. speech delivered In Boston In 1886. 


in common. In all respects Vance was the more sympathetic 
character. He had the one quality which his co-worker from 
Georgia so lamentably lacked: an ever-active sense of humor. 
It was Vance's rollicking conversation, his repartee and gift 
for anecdote, that made him the most popular man in his 
state, and for many years for he lived three decades after 
the war, dying in 1894 one of the most powerful members of 
the United States Senate the dominant political force in 
North Carolina. To-day Vance's statue stands in the Capitol 
rotunda at Washington, as North Carolina's favorite son. 
This was an eminence which the living Vance enjoyed for more 
than forty years. Compared with this record, the violent and 
at times even dubious career of Joseph Emerson Brown seems 
a rather tame affair. First of all Vance had one gift that 
Brown never attained : he was a great, substantial man-moving 
orator, the most eloquent North Carolina has ever known. One 
day, at a particularly dark hour of the Confederacy, Vance 
appeared in Virginia and spoke extemporaneously before Lee's 
army. His appearance and his speech on this occasion, re 
marked Lee, "were equivalent to reinforcements of 50,000 
men." Vance was a most persuasive exhorter because he pos 
sessed that attribute of innate character always necessary to 
convincing declamation. He lived through many crises and 
many temptations, and his honesty survived them all. Though 
North Carolina, under his administration, conducted an ex 
tensive trading business in cotton, an activity that afforded 
countless opportunities for private gain, Vance never suc 
cumbed, and came out of the war as poverty-stricken as most 
of his compeers. He had another distinction desirable on the 
platform, a handsome, even a noble appearance. All these 
oratorical powers Vance exercised to the last day of his life; 
just as, when little more than a boy, the news of an impending 
speech would call North Carolinians in droves, so, in the 
second Cleveland Administration, an announcement that Vance 
was to address the United States Senate perhaps against 


the McKinley Bill, perhaps in favor of free silver would 
pack the galleries to suffocation. 

Such a fiery spirit apparently marks out this leader as a 
fair representative of the ancient statesmanlike South, yet 
Vance, like Brown, derived from the western "mountain coun 
try/' and, at least in his early days, was also a typical Eliza 
bethan survival. At least he created this impression on the 
students of the University of North Carolina on his arrival 
at Chapel Hill. Clad in the customary homespun, his gangling 
arms protruding from the sleeves, his trousers lightly up 
lifted, leaving a wide space of white stocking between the 
bottom and the shoes, for the first few weeks he was merely 
the object of good-natured raillery. The mere circumstance 
that Vance had abandoned his native region and sought these 
classic halls in itself told much of his native ambition. Very 
few mountain boys in that age left their hills in search of 
learning. Yet for books Vance had had a fondness from early 
days. He not only read good literature, but tried his imitative 
hand at writing it; he even indited "poetry"; all his life he 
was a literary dabbler, his most attractive book being a col- 
lection of sketches dealing with the scenery and manners of 
his beloved Blue Ridge. Thus, though at the University Vance 
was a "milish" that is, a militia student, not a member of 
the regular undergraduate body and made no effort to 
obtain a degree, his mountain yarns, his skill as a debater, 
and his engaging companionship soon made him the dominant 
campus character. Evidently his appearance then did not differ 
much from that of after life. His distinguishing physical traits 
were a large body and head the latter round, with granite 
features, and a nimbus of waving hair reaching to his shoul 
ders. He was regarded then and afterward as an extremely 
handsome man, and his soft, drawling mountain accent, 
redolent, like Brown's, of Allegheny idioms, added to his 
general magnetism. His professional and political life followed 
the usual course. He served one term in the House of Com- 


mons such is the name North Carolina gives the lower 
chamber of her Legislature and, in 1858, at the age of 
twenty-eight, found himself in the popular branch of Congress. 
But his politics rested on different grounds from those of 
Brown, the unswerving Jeffersonian Democrat. In these early 
days Vance was not a State-rights man, but a fervent Unionist. 
Naturally he joined the Whigs, and when that party came to 
an end in 1856, declined to ally himself with the Democrats. 
Instead, like thousands of Whigs in the same dubious position, 
he for a time affiliated with the Know Nothings. Evidently 
his faith in the principles of this organization was not pro 
found. At least, though, in his campaign for Congress, Vance 
ran as the candidate of the Know Nothings and such remnants 
of Whigs as survived, he freely made sport in his election 
speeches, of Know-Nothing doctrines. The Congress of 1858- 
1860, of which Vance became a member, sadly needed the 
cheerful, fun-making qualities he brought to it. It was the 
Congress of excited slavery discussion, John Brown's raid, 
Helper's Impending Crisis, and other far from humorous 
themes. In these issues Vance did not adopt an extreme South 
ern view. Southern-rights men, like Davis, or even Alexander 
Stephens, found in him no support. His activities were those 
of a peacemaker; none of these questions, Vance insisted, 
should be permitted to involve the sections in war. In the 
campaign of 1860, he declined to endorse either Douglas or 
Breckinridge, the two Democratic candidates; instead, he took 
the field for the " Constitutional Union" standard-bearers, Bell 
and Everett, emerging from the contest with a nationwide 
reputation as stump speaker. 

After Lincoln's triumph, Vance became the foremost advo 
cate of Unionism in North Carolina. At that time the majority 
of North Carolinians agreed with him. In October, 1860, a 
great meeting of Whigs and Conservatives was held at Salis 
bury, to protest the calling of a convention to consider the 
question of Secession. The speech Vance made on this occa- 


sion long remained a tradition of the State. And presently 
he engaged in a kind of campaign resembling a religious re 
vival, envangelizing the same cause. He appeared in churches, 
even at street corners, shouting always the same refrain : "Keep 
North Carolina in the Union 1 Let it not follow the example 
of other Southern states I" All that was changed, as already 
described, by Lincoln's call for troops. Then Vance became 
more than a platform advocate of the Confederacy. He organ 
ized, among the mountain boys of his native country, a com 
pany known as u the Rough and Ready Guards." Captained 
by Vance, this contingent saw lively service in the early fight 
ing in North Carolina, and in the seven days' battle before 
Richmond in June, 1862. 

From the beginning, however, the Davis Administration 
was disliked in North Carolina. Those bickerings that were 
to make so much trouble throughout the war had already 
begun. The chief leader of this anti-Davis sentiment at the 
time was W. W. Holden, an opportunist newspaper editor 
who presently adopted an attitude actually anti-Confederate 
and pro-Union. Looking for a candidate to carry his anti- 
Davis standard, Holden naturally hit upon the most popular 
man in the state, Zebulon B. Vance. In accepting the nomina 
tion Vance pledged himself to "the prosecution of the war" 
but his statement was not taken seriously. Everywhere the 
Confederate party denounced him as the "Yankee candidate." 
The restoration of North Carolina to the Union, it was 
charged, would follow his election. The Richmond Adminis 
tration similarly distrusted Vance; Davis and his group re 
membered too vividly Vance's cry of two years before 
"Keep North Carolina in the Union!" The Northern press 
smiled most benignly on his campaign; success would mean 
the return of North Carolina to her old allegiance and the 
consequent end of the war. An amazing thing now happened. 
Though the upper classes ridiculed Vance's candidacy and 
confidently predicted his defeat, the mountain districts turned 


out in a huge stream, and put in office their beloved leader by 
a mighty majority. But the inaugural message gave cold com 
fort to the North. It demanded the rigorous prosecution of 
the war, and contained no suggestion for undoing the ordinance 
of Secession. Despite this the suspicious Davis still remained 
aloof; Richmond was not satisfied that Vance was playing true. 
Some ground existed, indeed, for this skeptical attitude. 
Both Vance and Brown were unpredictable public men, inde 
pendent to the last degree. At bottom, neither Vance nor 
Brown were ever strong adherents of the Confederacy. 
Neither, in the phase of their careers that now began, did 
they evince much interest in the Union. Unlike in temperament 
and character, the two men found a common ground in one 
devotion. Essentially they were not citizens either of the Con 
federacy or of the Federal Government; they were citizens 
of their states. By them Georgia and North Carolina were 
regarded as independent nations, having the flimsiest bonds 
with the Confederacy. The political principle that Davis was 
so fond of describing as the groundwork of the Confederacy 
state sovereignty these sons of nature took literally, 
applying this philosophy to the Confederacy as well as to the 
Union. And unfortunately for the Southern cause, both Gov 
ernors adjusted the principle of state sovereignty to the 
one function of government to which it is most of all ill-suited. 
That is the making of war, offensive and defensive. 

In the management of armies, centralization of authority 
and effort is indispensable to effective action. A generation 
that has passed through the great European war needs little 
instruction on this point, and the principle was just as sound 
from 1861-1865 as at the present time. Several distinct com 
mands, each working independently and usually at cross pur 
poses, can result only in confusion and demoralization. Most 
European authorities regard the strategy of the Northern ar 
mies as superior to that of the Southern because it recognized 
this fact. The first year or two the Federals indulged in much 


fumbling, but the time presently came when the Union armies 
were operated as units of one strong centralized command, 
and from that moment they pushed on to success. The South 
never attained this conception or at least never acted upon 
it. But the failure was not the fault of the Richmond Govern 
ment. Davis, champion of theoretic State rights as he was, 
never applied that philosophy to the direction of military 
effort. In this regard he was as much of a Hamiltonian as 
General Grant. The statesmen to blame for the dispersion of 
Confederate military energy were the Governors of the states, 
above all Joe Brown and Zebulon B. Vance. Neither ever 
grasped the "general staff" conception of warfare. Each con 
sidered the war as an enterprise of individual states and each 
insisted on raising state armies, officered by state-appointed 
captains and controlled directly by their local governments 
really by themselves. Their business was not first of all to 
protect the Confederacy as a whole, but to fortify their states 
against invasion. Both North Carolina and Georgia gave 
many thousand troops to the Confederacy; indeed, if we are 
to credit claims constantly made by Brown and Vance, their 
"countries" contributed larger quotas to the fighting forces 
than any others. But they always did this as states. Gov 
ernor Brown, for example, looked upon all Georgia troops, 
even when enrolled in Confederate armies, as subject to his 
own command. He retained them in Georgia, if he believed 
the state in danger of invasion; he released them to the 
Confederate Government when the local "emergency" had 
passed; and he felt himself free to recall at any moment his 
"noble, valiant Georgians" from Lee's army when danger of 
a Yankee incursion threatened the Georgia coast. Arms and 
ammunition provided by Georgia remained state property, he 
insisted, even when employed in Virginia campaigns. At times 
Brown would demand the return of such munitions, if> in his 
opinion, they could be better used at home. He was constantly 
complaining of Confederate neglect in "protecting" his state. 


He cried out that Lee's legions, sent on invasions of Mary 
land, should really have been despatched to Georgia to safe 
guard the coast from Yankee depredations. Neither Brown 
nor Vance ever acknowledged the fundamental idea that the 
one way of safeguarding Georgia and North Carolina was 
to annihilate the military force of the Northern states and 
that all Confederate energies should be concentrated in this 
one purpose, even at the cost of sacrificing minor and un- 
strategic points. The state! The state! That was the one 
entity these governors had in mind. The Confederacy as itself 
the important unit was something their sympathies never com 




THUS here we have two forces, working at cross purposes 
within the Confederacy itself, important not only as a political, 
but a social study. Seddon represented the traditional South 
that put fire into the armies of Lee and gave the Confederacy 
its success and standing in the eyes of the world. Brown and 
Vance symbolized a very different South, populous and exten 
sive, a South which had been largely submerged for three 
quarters of a century. This second South was slaveless, agricul 
tural in the general meaning of that term, separated from 
the cotton belt that had created the new government, Whig 
in politics, Unionist in allegiance, anti-Secession in the critical 
year 1860, and to a considerable extent loyal to the Federal 
power even after the outbreak of hostilities. The issue between 
these two antagonistic groups was most sharply drawn on 
Conscription. No greater exercise of the national power 
could be imagined than for that power to enter the states and 
enroll its citizens for the business of the battlefield. Yet by 
this measure the war might be won; without it, the war would 
certainly be lost. It soon appeared, however, that practically 
all the states were fighting conscription even more 'fiercely 
than they were battling the Yankees. Many of the greatest 
Southerners were joining in the fray. Alexander H. Stephens, 
Vice President, the man who, in the not unlikely event of 
Davis's death, would succeed to the Presidency, and Robert 
Toombs, probably the ablest public man in the South, were 
leading the resistance. Most of the Southern Governors, with 
Brown and Vance at their head, were waxing every day more 
hostile to the measure. The doctrine of State rights, elabo- 


rated in its latest form to facilitate the extension of 
slavery, was now being turned against the vitals of the Con 
federacy itself. It would be difficult to find in all history a 
more lethal illustration of the well-worn image of Franken 

From the beginning in April, 1861, Brown had followed his 
particularistic bent. He did not enter into the preparations 
feverishly made for the expected first Northern invasion, the 
one that presently culminated at Bull Run. Instead of con 
tributing Georgia's strength to the Confederate Army, Brown 
kept busily at his job of organizing independent Georgia 
troops to save his state from possible Federal raids. When, 
in response to Davis's call for volunteers, Georgians by the 
thousands offered their services, Brown would not let them 
take from Georgia arms that belonged to the state or to 
themselves. When a few companies, more enlightened than 
their governor, succeeded in smuggling munitions out of 
Georgia, Brown angrily called upon the Confederate Govern 
ment to send them back. At Brown's instigation, the Georgia 
Legislature authorized the raising of 10,000 volunteers "for 
the defense of the state" all this in competition with the 
Confederacy's effort in the same direction. The troops so 
assembled were, in Brown's own words, a "patriotic, chivalrous 
band of Georgians," ready for the battlefield; but Brown 
marooned them in camp from June 11 to August 2, all pre* 
pared to start independent operations against any Yankees 
who should descend on Georgia. Had Brown sent these men, 
or a fair proportion of them, to Virginia, they might have 
made Bull Run an even more disastrous rout than it was, and 
perhaps enabled the Confederates to push on to Washington. 
"The crisis of our fate," Walker, then Secretary of War, 
telegraphed Brown, desperately begging for these men, "may 
depend upon your action"; still the obstinate Governor held 
his forces under his own command, fearing, as he afterward 
said, that an "invasion," similar to that then pouring into 


Virginia, would be made "by a landing of troops upon our 
coast." Such was Brown's attitude at the beginning, and such 
it remained to the end. 


The story of conscription is a long, complicated one too 
complicated for minute exposition in this place. As one con 
scription act followed its predecessor, the fight against the 
whole proposal grew in intensity. Brown's first step in re 
sistance was a personal veto; he refused to let the law be 
enforced in Georgia. One of the bitterest exchanges of letters 
in American history ensued between Brown and Davis on 
this subject. It started April 22, 1862, ten days after the 
passage of the original law, and continued until the following 
October. Brown's letters are lengthy, garrulous, a complex 
of Constitutional quibble and bad temper, contemptuous in 
personal reference, ignorant in all that pertains to military 
science and statesmanship on a national scale. The conscrip 
tion act, so he complains, had completely disorganized the 
military system of Georgia. It was impeding his noble efforts 
to raise troops for state defense. The men he needed for this 
purpose Davis was seeking to impress into the Confederate 
Army. It was clearly the Presidential ambition to consolidate 
the military strength of the Southern states in the hands of 
a strong national government. "I cannot consent to commit 
the state to a policy which is in my judgment subversive of 
her sovereignty and at war with all the principles for the 
support of which Georgia entered into this revolution." In 
public speeches and in messages to the Legislature, Brown 
became even more inflammatory. Conscription was a "palpable 
violation of the Constitution" ; it bordered on "military des 
potism"; under this arbitrary system the "free born citizens" 
of the state were about to be transformed into "chattels" and 


"vassals of the Central power." Herein we see, said Brown, 
Richmond's "pompous pretensions to Imperial" sway. At state 
expense Brown published all these lucubrations in pamphlets, 
which were hawked at every street corner in Georgia and 
distributed gratis among the Georgia troops in Lee's armies. 

Mere abuse would not have shackled the War Department, 
but from words Brown presently passed to acts. He advised 
Georgians to disregard the law and to defy conscription 
agents. He ordered the arrest of any Confederate emissary 
who should attempt to enroll a militia officer. In pre-war days 
Secretary Seddon had adopted Calhoun's principle of Nullifica 
tion; this now Brown turned against the Confederacy itself. 
He suspended conscription in Georgia until the Legislature 
should declare It constitutional. That was precisely the attitude 
of Jefferson on the Alien and Sedition laws and Calhoun on 
the tariff of 1828. Not the Confederate Congress, not the 
courts, but the Legislature of the "sovereign state" was to 
decide on the legality of measures passed by the Confederate 
Congress. When the Georgia Legislature decided the point in 
favor of conscription, Brown refused to accept its verdict; he 
now disregarding his own principle of the supremacy of 
the Legislature appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. 
When that tribunal in turn determined the question in the 
affirmative Brown indulged in those criticisms of the court 
which are the usual executive rejoinder on such occasions. 
These distinguished jurists, he said, had acted from "heavy 
outside pressure." That is, Jefferson Davis, in Richmond, had 
issued his ukase to the highest judicial body in Georgia, which 
had meekly submitted to his dictation* 

The conscription law itself contained several serious de 
fects and Brown seized upon one of these to make the whole 
thing a nullity- Thus the measure gave Governors of states 
the temporary privilege of making exemptions. Obviously all 
able-bodied men could not be enrolled in the fighting forces; 
considerable parts of the population must be left to manage 


the farms, manufacture munitions, perform the thousands of 
functions necessary to sustain a community engaged in war. 
Brown wielded the prerogative of naming these "exempts" in 
most arbitrary fashion. He used it as an instrument for 
emasculating conscription itself. He declared free of military 
duty more than two thousand justices of the peace and one 
thousand constables; they were needed, the Governor declared, 
to preserve domestic peace in Georgia ! No man but Brown, 
said Howell Cobb, "ever conceived the idea that justices of 
the peace who never held court, constables who never served 
a warrant, and militia officers who had no mess to command, 
were necessary for the proper administration of the state 
government." Brown appointed thousands of men of con 
scription age to all kinds of state offices, merely to make easy 
for them the avoiding of military service. No state had ever 
previously been so well supplied with petty officials, most of 
them on nominal salaries. In Georgia an enormous increase 
suddenly took place in constables, deputy bailifis, deputy clerks, 
and assistant postmasters. Since militia officers by Brown's 
decree were exempt, he made countless new appointments 
of this class. School teaching became a suddenly popular pro 
fession, Brown having exempted these useful citizens from 
service at the front. Everywhere little schools sprang up 
merely to keep this type of slacker out of the training camp. 
Brown exempted one druggist in every drugstore, with the 
result that at least one pharmacy came into existence at every 
crossroad. Jefferson Davis declared that Brown, by giving 
officers' commissions to able-bodied militiamen, had exempted 
15,000 from the Confederate Army. According to Howell 
Cobb, there were more men of conscription age staying at 
home thanks to the several devices adopted by Brown to 
protect them in their "rights" in Georgia than had gone 
into the Confederate service in the entire course of the war. 
Brown not only blockaded Georgia from Seddon's conscrip 
tion officers, but gave the Governors of practically all the 


states in the cotton belt an example which they promptly 
followed. Vance adopted the same tactics in North Carolina. 
In 1861, this state, like Georgia, had rushed in thousands to 
the Confederate colors but from 1862 to the end of the war, 
its zeal for military service steadily ebbed. North Carolina 
had a higher desertion record than any Confederate state. 
Vance attributed this fact to the Conscription act, but others 
insisted that his own uncooperative attitude did much to create 
a public sentiment that made desertion a natural habit. With 
all the energy of his vital nature Vance hated conscription. 
His hostility rested on the same grounds as that of Brown. 
He was the spokesman of the plain, homespun Southern 
farmer, of the nonslaveholding, non-"cavalier" type. Con 
scription was an evil in Vance's mind because it took 
these simple, hard-working Southern folk from their humble 
homes, transported them to bloody battlefields in Virginia 
and Tennessee, and left North Carolina exposed to its enemies. 
As the war went on Vance grew more and more defiant; he 
went even further than Brown in withholding conscripts from 
the War Department by "exemptions" and "furloughs" ; at 
times he showed a strange partiality for deserters; and his 
whole course exercised a most damaging effect upon the Con 
federate attempt to organize an army. 

Watts, Governor of Alabama, Pettus, Governor of Mis 
sissippi, Murrah, Governor of Texas, presently aligned 
themselves with Georgia and North Carolina in fighting con 
scription. In the last two years of the war this whole region 
was fiercely arrayed against the Richmond authorities. Watts 
had succeeded Benjamin for a brief period as Attorney Gen 
eral, but his association with the general government had 
apparently inspired no devotion to the Confederacy, in prefer 
ence to his state. His letters to Seddon breathe not only de 
fiance, but at times actual threats of war. "I have resisted 
by remonstrance," he wrote in one instance, "the action 
of the enrolling officers and I may feel myself justified in 


going further unless some stop is put to the matter by you." 
"Unless you order the commandant of conscripts to stop inter 
fering with such companies [that is, his own state troops] 
there will be a conflict between the Confederate General and 
the state authorities." Confronted in this way with something 
resembling civil war within the Confederacy itself, Seddon 
capitulated and acquiesced in Watts's defiance of the Conscrip 
tion act. He bowed to similar threats from Murrah in far-off 
Texas. In Mississippi, Davis's own state, Governor Pettus 
was pursuing the same course. In this region, General Brandon 
reported to Seddon, "all are rushing into the state organiza 
tions merely as a way of escaping conscription in the Con 
federate army." Governor Clark, who succeeded Pettus in 
1863, virtually threatened war against the Confederacy. "I 
shall be compelled," he wrote Seddon, "to protect my state 
officers with all the forces of the state at my command. . . . 
Unless you interfere there will be a conflict between the Con 
federate and state authorities." And again Seddon gave way. 
How did the people of Georgia regard Brown's unceasing 
war on the central government of Richmond? That is perhaps 
the saddest part of the whole affair. In Georgia, public senti 
ment, whenever it could be tested, supported its bellicose chief 
magistrate. Brown's tactics became an issue in the election of 
1863. In contests of this kind several issues usually confuse 
the situation; that may have been the case in 1863; yet the 
fact remains that the state, having this opportunity to repudi 
ate its Governor, failed to do so. Instead it elected him by 
the handsomest of majorities. Among certain elements he was, 
of course, an object of execration. In Georgia no public man 
had ever aroused such animosity as Governor Joe Brown. 
But in this public attitude social cleavage was only too ap 
parent. Those who thought of themselves as "the best" ele 
ment denounced the man as a public shame, as a "traitor" to 
a noble cause, the "Judas Iscariot," the "Benedict Arnold" 
of the Confederacy. B. H. Hill, Confederate Senator, de- 


dared that Brown's messages were "first steps to another 
Revolution," Howeli Cobb, the owner of one thousand slaves, 
railed vehemently against this "cracker" from the mountain 
country, "this miserable demagogue who now disgraces the 
executive chair of Georgia," Cobb remarked that he had never 
attended a hanging and had never felt any desire to do so, 
but if Governor Brown should be the chief performer in such 
a ceremony, he would gladly join the spectators. Cobb and his 
fellow aristocrats attempted to bring about Brown's defeat 
at the polls, but met a humiliating failure. In this contest 
practically every newspaper in the state supported Brown's 
opponent, a "patriotic" candidate who ran on a platform 
pledging earnest support of the Confederate Government 
and especially of conscription. Many choice epithets filled their 
pages. Brown was held forth as a more dangerous enemy to 
the Confederacy than Grant or Sherman, But all these out 
bursts the stolid, white-whiskered little man treated with con 
tempt. He knew his mountain folk. He had made them the 
chief object of his Governorship. In these mountain areas 
love of the Confederate Government was not deep-seated and 
Brown's hostility to many of its policies had not alienated 
devotion to their favorite governor. And so Brown did 
not make the slightest attempt to obtain a renomination 
and secured one unanimously. He took no part in the campaign 
and was triumphantly reflected. This result proved a rude 
awakening for Howeli Cobb and Jefferson Davis, for it showed 
that Brown's policy toward conscription and other Confeder 
ate matters had the support of the masses of Georgia, By this 
time Richmond had begun to suspect that Brown's real pur 
pose was to bring the war to a close, and the support he re 
ceived from his own state looked like an ominous portent 



These anti-administration Governors interfered with the 
Conscription Act in an even more disastrous way. All these 
states North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, 
Texas organized their own state armies, or militia, or 
reserves, or u troops of war" they went by several names, 
but had an identical object in view. This was to enroll the 
fighting forces of the state under direct state control and keep 
them out of the clutches of the Confederate Government. A 
citizen of Georgia, once gathered under the sheltering wing 
of a militia company or a "reserve," was protected against 
the approach of a Confederate conscription agent. That the 
plan had great elements of popularity, and thus added to 
Brown's political strength, was apparent. Service in state 
militia made greater appeals to a certain type of Georgian 
and as the toilsome war went endlessly on this type grew 
more numerous than life in the Confederate entrenchments 
before Petersburg. Enrolled in the militia the warrior could 
spend most of his time on his farm, caring for wife and chil 
dren; only in case of "emergency" would he be called forth 
to fight the invader. And the judge whether such an "emer 
gency" existed was not General Lee or General Johnston, or 
Secretary Seddon, or Jefferson Davis, but the constitutional 
commander in chief, Joseph E. Brown. The real captain of 
such of Georgia's sons as had been detailed for the front was 
thus the "mountain boy" who had jealously protected them 
for two years. Military operations, in Brown's conception, 
partook something of the nature of a football game. At certain 
critical dates the two opposing armies lined up against each 
other and fought their battle. When this particular contest 
ended, the war was over for the time being. In such crises it 
was the Governor's duty to send his state army to reenforce 
the Confederate forces. When the "emergency" passed, 


irrespective of which side won, Brown could call his paladins 
home, and set them to cultivating their crops until another 
approach of combat made necessary once more their appear 
ance at the front. Why keep good men idling uselessly in 
camp when everything was quiet? That warfare was a per 
petual "emergency" was a point Brown never grasped any 
more than he understood that a great army, to be of much 
value, must be subject to a unified command and operated as 
a grand unit. 

Presently Governor Brown found himself confronted with 
one of those "emergencies" for which he had made such 
elaborate preparation. This was the "emergency" that has 
passed into history as Sherman's march to the sea. This was 
the campaign, it is now well understood, that broke the Con 
federacy into a thousand pieces and made inevitable Lee's 
surrender to Grant, But to Brown and his school of strategists 
it was merely an invasion of Georgia, an attack that should 
call into action the "valiant Georgians" whom he had 
scrambled together for just this kind of crisis. These 10,000 
men, if properly trained and organized, would naturally have 
greatly reenforced Johnston's forces. But the fact is that, 
terrible as was the "emergency," they really formed no in 
separable part of Johnston's army. Brown placed them nomi 
nally under Johnston's control, but he himself remained their 
commander. Johnston could not organize the troops, appoint 
the officers, or incorporate the Georgia militia in his own 
army. Joe Brown's Ten Thousand their fame, in Con 
federate annals, recalls the Ten Thousand Greeks in the pages 
of Xenophon were, said Seddon in a letter to Brown him 
self, "nondescript organizations, not conforming to regulations 
of the provisional army, scant in men and abounding in officers, 
with every variety of obligation for local service, generally 
of the most restricted character. Thus you were enabled to 
indulge in the vain boast of raising sixteen thousand men for 
the defense of the state, while in fact scarce a decent division 


of four thousand men could be mustered for the field and then 
only for six months' service." Yet these recruits were the raw 
material of splendid troops; had they been placed under Con 
federate control, said Seddon, and incorporated as units in 
the Confederate Army, Sherman's invasion could have been 
checked and the Confederacy saved. 

But Atlanta fell; Hood started on his fatal campaign in 
eastern Tennessee, and Sherman struck boldly into the heart 
of Georgia. Brown's foes, including Seddon and Davis, attrib 
uted the disaster at Atlanta, and Sherman's subsequent 
triumphs, directly to the Governor's obstructive tactics. That 
he certainly facilitated Sherman's operations, even Brown's 
friends could not deny. Naturally, when Sherman instituted 
the siege, Seddon began scraping the Southern states for 
fighting men. In due course he called upon Brown for his 
valorous Ten Thousand. The Secretary had the Confederate 
Constitution on his side. Under this the President had the 
right to requisition the militia of the states to repel invasion. 
And here certainly was an invasion! The call came to Brown 
on August 30, 1864. By this time, however, the Confederate 
Constitution meant little to Joe Brown. The all-important 
necessity was the protection of his state, and he fatuously 
believed that this was his responsibility and not that of the 
Richmond Government. He not only refused to hand over his 
troops to Hood, who had succeeded Johnston as general in 
command, but insisted that Seddon return to Georgia all 
Georgian troops then engaged in Lee's Virginia army. "I 
demand," Brown wrote Seddon, "that he [President Davis] 
permit all the sons of Georgia to return to their own state and 
within her own borders to rally around her glorious flag and 
as it flutters in the breeze in defiance of the foe, to strike for 
their wives and their children, their homes and their altars, 
and the green graves of their kindred and sires." 

Brown had another reason for his refusal, which he made 
no effort to conceal. General Sherman and the Yankee army 
were not the only foes Georgia might have to meet. He might 


need his Ten Thousand to fight the Confederacy itself. The 
Yankee menace was no more dangerous than that of the 
"Imperialists" in Richmond. This Georgia state army, Brown 
now informed Seddon, was "an organization of gallant, fear 
less men, ready to defend the state against usurpation of power 
as well as invasions of the enemy." They were Georgia's 
"only remaining protection against the encroachments of 
centralized power." He therefore refused "to gratify the 
President's ambition In this particular and to surrender the 
last vestige of sovereignty of the state." Those who think 
that Brown ultimately planned the secession of Georgia from 
the Confederacy apparently have solid grounds for the sus 
picion. An actual secession could not have done much more 
harm than his withdrawal of his Ten Thousand at this critical 

All the time that Sherman was penetrating deeply into 
Georgia, burning and destroying, Seddon and Brown were 
engaged In a most caustic correspondence; while the Yankees 
were ripping up railroad tracks, burning crops, demilitariz 
ing cities, making "Georgia howl," in Sherman's own words, 
Brown's pen was busy, writing long dissertations to Seddon 
on constitutional government, the rights of the states, and 
the danger of the growing "imperialism" of the Davis Govern 
ment. In a speech in Columbia, South Carolina, in October, 
Davis, in veiled language, virtually called him a "traitor," 
and Seddon, in his angry letters to Brown, declared that his 
action had led the enemy to believe that they could make a 
separate peace with Georgia and that the state "could be 
seduced and betrayed to treachery and desertion." Brown's 
behavior, indeed, had had precisely this result; the Northern 
press confidently predicted Georgia's early return to the Union, 
and General Sherman expected Georgia to secede from the 
Confederacy. Brown's crowning act of "treachery," as his 
Southern enemies called it, could carry hardly any other mean 
ing. In early September, in one of the most critical moments 
of the war, he "furloughed" his Ten Thousand men; that is, 


he ordered them to drop their arms, disband their organiza 
tions, and return home to work their farms. "Governor 
Brown," wrote the astonished Sherman to General Halleck, 
"has disbanded his militia, to gather the corn and sorghum of 
the state." "It would be a magnificent stroke of policy," Sher 
man wrote to Lincoln, "if we could, without surrendering 
principles or a foot of ground, arouse the latent enmity of 
Georgia against Davis." Sherman went so far as to write 
Brown, inviting him to a meeting for a discussion of the future 
relation of his state to the Federal Army. The wary Brown 
did not venture quite so far as that, though Sherman always 
believed that it had been his original intention to do so, but 
that he had finally refrained from prudential reasons per 
haps from fear. 

Brown's career after the war gave ground for his enemies 
to believe the worst. In the Reconstruction era he joined the 
carpet-baggers, became a member of the Republican Party and 
an advocate of negro suffrage. He was the active force in the 
infamous, corrupt administration of Governor Bullock. His 
personal honesty was not above suspicion; he became one of 
the richest men in Georgia some say the richest and that 
he had been one of the profiteers of Reconstruction was only 
one of the current charges affecting his financial integrity. "It 
is impossible for you to think worse of the scoundrel than I 
do," Toombs, Brown's former supporter, wrote to Stephens. 
Yet the instructive fact is that, both during the war and sub 
sequently, Brown never lost the support of the masses of 
Georgia. After Appomattox he became Chief Justice of 
Georgia's Supreme Court and served two terms in the United 
States Senate. His hold on the loyalty of Georgia, despite hi$ 
anti-Davis policy, thus throws light upon the effect of internal 
dissension in the breakdown of the Confederate Government. 
And North Carolina, as already intimated, similarly gave 
cordial support to Vance, almost as violent in his anti-Con 
federate tendencies as Brown. 


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ONE man in the Davis Cabinet had a more statesmanlike view 
of the situation than these short-sighted Governors who so 
perversely obstructed the military campaign. The Secretary of 
the Navy, Stephen R. Mallory, saw the Confederacy not as a 
league of mutually warring states but as a whole. Upon him 
fell the difficult duty of repairing the initial mistake of Jeffer 
son Davis. That monumental error, as already made plain, 
was the failure in the first year to break through the loosely- 
jointed Federal blockade and send great supplies of cotton 
to England and the Continent. Judah P. Benjamin was not the 
only Southern statesman who grieved over this wasted op 
portunity. Another was the Secretary of the Navy. In Mai- 
lory's eyes, the Navy Department had one single objective in 
the war. That was to save the Southern nation from the two 
forces that were working for its annihilation. One was the 
Lincoln blockade, the other the Davis embargo. At bottom, 
Mallory's job was to get cotton to Europe, to open the sea 
lanes reaching from Southern ports to the markets of the 
world. By the summer of 1862 one obstacle had been removed. 
Richmond had recovered from its delusion that a cotton boy 
cott could bring England and France to terms and had conse 
quently abandoned the embargo. From now on Mallory's only 
labor was to break the Lincoln blockade. The intelligence and 
energy with which he attacked this almost impossible problem 
marks him as one of the most f arseeing men in the Administra 

Mallory figures little in Confederate histories and has been 
neglected by biographers. Yet all contemporary witnesses 


testify to his industry and spirit. True, he stirred up much 
opposition; his department, after the fall of New Orleans and 
the capture of Norfolk, was subjected to inquiry by Congress; 
yet, as noted elsewhere, he was the only Cabinet member who 
survived four years of war. There is some significance in the 
fact that Mr. Davis had six Secretaries of War and only one 
Secretary of the Navy. Mallory' s merits are not the only ex 
planation. Davis was enormously interested in the War De 
partment, but had little concern for its companion service. He 
thought that everything hinged upon his military chieftains; 
the tremendous influence a navy might play in bringing victory 
he did not seem to understand. Certain authorities in the Con 
federacy noted and grieved over this failing in the chief. "It 
is evidently no part of the plan of the Administration, 1 ' wrote 
Matthew Fontaine Maury, the distinguished oceanographer, 
to William Ballard Preston, this as late as October 22, 1863, 
"to have a navy at present or even to encourage one," an< 
he almost despairingly sketched a plan for a sea force under the 
control of Virginia, since the central authority seemed so 
oblivious of its duty. 1 Captain Maury's sense of the inadequacy 
of Mr. Davis in naval strategy is substantiated by the scant at 
tention the President gives the subject in his massive two- 
volumed work on Confederate history. Scores of chapters are 
devoted to describing military campaigns, while only a few 
perfunctory pages are given to the operations of the other arm. 
Davis, however, does pay high tribute to Secretary Mallory 
and defends his administration from the attacks to which it was 
subjected in war time. His confidence explains in part Mallory's 
uninterrupted service; more important, however, was the fact 
that to Davis the Navy was a secondary interest. Thus Mallory 
was, for the most part, left free to run his own department. 

The man thus left undisturbed as Secretary of the Navy had 
two qualifications for his office. He was, in 1861, the most 
prominent citizen of Florida, and Florida, like all the states of 

^Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Series 2, Vol. II, p. 94. 


the first Confederacy, had a rightful claim to representation 
in the Cabinet Again Mallory enjoyed a general fame as the 
best informed man in the South on naval warfare, though his 
only sea experience was derived from sailing his own yacht. 
His career as United States Senator from 1851 to 1861 a 
career not especially distinguished had been chiefly as 
sociated with this branch of the service. For several years he 
acted as chairman of the Senate Committee on naval affairs; 
the few Mallory speeches that have been reprinted do not, 
like those of most of his contemporaries, concern themselves 
with the compromise measures of 1850 or the Kansas-Ne 
braska bill, but with such topics as flogging in the Navy, 
in which form of discipline, sad to relate, he believed, the 
need of large appropriations for warships, and similar nautical 
matters. Perhaps Mallory' s inheritance and lifetime surround 
ings explain this natural liking for the sea. One account de 
scribes his father the precise facts about Mallory' s origin 
are not clear as a sea captain of Bridgeport, Connecticut 
In early manhood Charles Mallory moved to the island of 
Trinidad, British West Indies, to engage in some kind of con 
struction work; here he married an Irish girl of sixteen, Ellen 
Russell, recently arrived from County Waterford, and said to 
be a member of the family that afterward produced Russell 
of Killowen, Lord Chief Justice of England. Stephen Russell 
Mallory was born at Trinidad in 1813. Ellen Russell, his 
sprightly mother, seems to have played an important part in 
forming the character of her son, the future Confederate 
Secretary. All her life she spoke with the richest of Irish 
brogues; her liveliness and wit made easier the difficult time 
she had in bringing up her children, for her Connecticut hus 
band died when Stephen was nine years old, leaving her nothing 
but her two hands to earn their living. Thus the half-Irish 
Stephen R. Mallory was the only Roman Catholic in the Davis 
Cabinet; always about him there hung an exotic atmosphere, 
emphasized by his wife, Angela Moreno, a pure-blooded 


Spanish girl, who developed into a woman of intelligence and 
beauty. Mallory's lack of education appears in such few letters 
as have been preserved, which are frequently faulty in con 
struction and spelling. He had been limited to a year's in 
struction at a Moravian school in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, 
leaving at fifteen. Mallory passed his first thirty years at 
Key West, and the few preceding the Civil War at Pensacola. 
Key West and Pensacola added to the saltiness of his fame, 
for these two towns one the extreme southern point of the 
United States, the other exhaling memories of Spanish buc 
caneers suggest the free and open water. Mallory's early 
life in Key West had as its background the Gulf of Mexico. He 
earned his living at first in miscellaneous fashion. Part of the 
time was spent helping his mother run a boardinghouse. Tradi 
tion reports that Mrs. Mallory was the first white woman to 
take up residence at Key West and her establishment was 
naturally the headquarters of sailors and fishermen. In inter 
vals the young man edited a local news sheet, and acted as 
correspondent for the New York Herald, an important post, 
for Key West gave rise to much marine news, and Mallory's 
contributions usually comprised descriptions of wrecks, hurri 
canes, and high adventure on the deep. Thus his interest in the 
Navy has a natural evolution. There was also a heartiness 
about the man, a love of robust living, a fondness for good 
food and wine, and an overflowing good nature that form 
indispensable ingredients of the sea dog. 

In the exciting disputes that led to civil war, Mallory dis 
played only incidental interest. He did at times discourse in 
the United States Senate on slavery, indulged in the usual un 
friendly remarks on John Brown, Mrs. Beecher Stowe, and 
Hinton Rowan Helper. He had the inevitable brush with 
Charles Sumner, but his concern with such momentous issues 
never attained a fire-eating tension. In fact, when Davis, at 
Montgomery, named Mallory to the headship of the Navy, 
there was much in the candidate's prewar record that caused 


apprehension. He was the only member of the prospective 
Cabinet who did not meet immediate approval. Two delegates 
from Florida itself voted against Mallory's confirmation. The 
truth is that the nominee's record on slavery and Secession 
was unpopular with Southern die-hards. There was resent 
ment against his origin and early life in the North, and fear 
that a Yankee father had poisoned his gospel. Before 1861, 
Mallory had not been a Secessionist. On the great vital issue 
his convictions were lukewarm. After the war, Mallory, a 
prisoner in Fort Lafayette, New York, appealed to President 
Johnson, asking for pardon and restoration to citizenship. This 
letter clearly substantiates the conviction, general in Mont 
gomery in 1861, that Mallory's position on fundamental 
matters was unorthodox. The claim on which he laid chief 
emphasis for Presidential clemency was his lifelong loyalty 
to the Federal Union. "I was never a member,'' he declared, 
"of a convention or a legislature of any state that advised or 
counselled Secession." His first election to the United States 
Senate had come without his knowledge or consent; the Whig 
party had supported him in 1851 he now informed the 
President because of his devotion to the Washington Gov 
ernment. He had served in the Senate from 1851 to 1861, and 
in that ten years, "no word or sentiment of disloyalty to the 
Union ever escaped me." True enough, on January 21, 1861, 
he had withdrawn from the Senate, after Florida's secession, 
at the command of the Governor of that state; but it was an 
"act which, in view of its causes and attendant circumstances, 
was the most painful of my career." "Educated and trained in 
love and reverence for the Union as the ark of political safety, 
I dreaded the perils of Secession, and believed that ample 
remedies of all political wrongs, present and prospective, could 
be more wisely, justly and advantageously secured in the 
Union than out of it." "I never could regard it [Secession] 
as but another name for revolution, and to be justified only 
as a last resort from intolerable oppression." The Secretary- 


ship of the Navy in the Confederate Cabinet, the almost re 
pentant Mallory now informed President Johnson, had been 
forced upon him. He had not desired the honor and had done 
his best to avoid it. Practically coerced into accepting the post 
in March, 1861, he had again sought an escape on the forma 
tion of the permanent government. "In February, 1862, I 
requested and requested the acceptance of my resignation, 
which President Davis declined." 

Mallory, in this apologia to President Johnson, refers to 
the incident which had made him suspect in the eyes of the 
Confederate Congress. Learning, in early January, of 1861, 
that "armed bands of Alabamians and Floridians" were plan 
ning to attack Fort Pickens, in Pensacola Harbor, he had 
energetically opposed such a manoeuvre. The reference is to 
one of the most celebrated episodes of the crisis, eclipsed in 
importance only by the greater eclat that subsequently came to 
Fort Sumter. Except for Mallory and other conciliatory South 
ern leaders, the Pensacola fort, and not the one that guarded 
Charleston, might have gained the doubtful eminence of pre 
cipitating the war. Why did the Florida troops fail to capture 
one of the most strategic points in the Gulf? The Secretary's 
foes always attributed this mistake to Stephen R. Mallory. 
It was because he had proved a "traitor" to the Confederacy 
in this crisis that they raised objections to him as a Cabinet 
member. That Mallory, after the war, exhibited his conduct 
to President Johnson on the Fort Pickens business as a reason 
for release from prison and restoration to American citizen 
ship lends some force to this accusation. What is known is 
that, on January '28, he sent a telegram to Senator John 
Slidell, instructing him to assure the Washington Government 
that no attack was being planned against Fort Pickens, and 
urging that no reinforcements be sent. Mallory always main 
tained that his purpose was to preserve the peace, at a 
critical moment when negotiations were under way to settle 
the Secession dispute; that "firing on Fort Pickens" would: 


have precipitated war in January, just as "firing on Fort 
Sumter" did afterward in April; an explanation which, in 
retrospect, seems satisfactory and public-spirited. By some of 
his contemporaries, however, u the truce of Fort Pickens," as 
it was derisively called, was assailed as merely the last-minute 
expression of Mallory's anti-Secession views and a farewell 
gesture of good feeling toward that Northern land to which he 
owed his origin. 



That Mallory's act was the sincere expression of his con 
science is attested by his subsequent career. No Southern leader 
more reluctantly took the plunge into Secession, and not one, 
after the war started, supported the Confederate cause with 
more energy. In 1861 Captain Mahan and his philosophy of 
sea power had not made their appearance. That naval his 
torian, thirty years afterward, demonstrated that the deter 
mining element in war has always been the control of the sea. 
It is the power that dominates the ocean, not the one that 
wins battles on land, which inevitably emerges victor. In 1861 
the importance of sea power was not generally understood. 
Mallory perhaps did not grasp the truth in all its force, but 
he came pretty close to it. At least on this foundation he 
based a most intelligent campaign. The impending struggle, he 
foresaw, was not to be decided definitely by the armies but by 
the navies. The one road to success was by breaking through 
the blockade. At this time Benjamin was trying to achieve 
this objective with lawyers' arguments, and by a huge money 
bribe to Napoleon III. England pigeon-holed his briefs, lawyer- 
like and able as they were, and Louis Napoleon, much as his 
fingers itched for the money, dared not move alone. Mallory 
from the first saw that there was only one way of accomplishing 
the great end; if the Confederate Navy could not destroy the 
Lincolnian cordon, everything was lost. 


The difficulty was that there was no Confederate Navy. 
One of Mallory's first steps was to summon to Montgomery 
Captain James D. Bullock, formerly an officer in the United 
States Navy, now, as befitted an "aristocrat" of Georgia, a 
fervent Confederate partisan. 2 At this first meeting, Mallory, 
with Irish humor, described the state of the existing Confed 
erate Navy. It consisted of little except the bare, unfurnished 
room in which their session was being held. One desirable part 
of a navy Mallory did indeed command. There were practically 
no sailors, but there was no lack of officers. Uncle Sam had 
trained up a large personnel for the Confederate Navy at 
Annapolis, just as he had for the Confederate Army at West 
Point. Southerners in the Union Navy, it is true, did not resign 
their commands and cross Mason and Dixon's line to the same 
extent that their brothers did in the Army; the greatest naval 
genius of the North, for example, and one of the greatest of 
all time was a Tennesseean, David Farragut, who remained 
loyal to the Union. But the Confederate Navy, even in 1861, 
had an abundance of admirals, commodores, captains, lieu 
tenants, midshipmen; all it lacked, Mallory explained to Bul 
lock, were war vessels and able seamen. 

The more philosophic observer would have pictured Mal 
lory's plight in different fashion. The South at that moment, 
he would have said, illustrated the martial weakness that re 
sulted from a one-sided national economy. For generations 
that land had devoted its energies to cultivating a few staple 
crops, for shipment to Europe. In doing this, those industries 
and that commerce which form the basis of a well-rounded 
state had been neglected. Old England and New England 
transported its products to their appointed markets. The 
factories of the North provided most of its industrial needs. 
War, even in 1861, was a much mechanized business; manu- 

2 At this time Captain Bullock enjoyed another distinction, of which he was unconscious} 
he was the uncle of a small boy, three years old, then living in New York City, who was 
destined to he the twenty-seventh President of the United States. His sister Martha had 
married into a Northern family and her son was Theodore Roosevelt. 


f acturing plants of all kinds were essential to its prosecution ; 
above all, ships, both mercantile and warlike, were things it 
could hardly do without. The South possessed neither ships 
nor shipyards nor heavy industries. Only two naval yards, 
capable of building war vessels, existed within its limits, the 
one-time Federal bases at Norfolk and Pensacola. From the, 
beginning of the war to the close the Union held both the 
fortifications, Pickens and Fortress Monroe, that commanded 
these strongholds. Not a station could be found -in the South 
where a vessel larger than a yawl could be built. There were no 
machine shops, no rolling mills, no shipwrights. While, at the 
time of Fort Sumter, Northern harbors were clogged with 
vessels of all description most of which were promptly 
pressed into Federal service practically nothing was afloat 
in Southern waters that could be transformed to the uses of the 
conflict. "Our present navy," Mallory informed Bullock, "con 
sists of a little steamer of 500 tons, called the Sumter, under 
the command of Raphael Semmes," the Semmes who after 
ward won fame with the Alabama. The South therefore needed, 
first of all, not the gold-braided officers who had departed 
from the Union Navy, but ships, guns, and a few of those 
ironclads which were now coming into existence in Europe. 
As far as wooden ships were concerned, the timber of which 
they would be built was still standing green in the forests. The 
hemp of which their cordage could be woven was yet unplanted. 
There were two ways in which the aim of a Southern navy 

the destruction of the blockade could be accomplished. 

One was by way of a direct, frontal attack; one by a more 
indirect, but still effective, approach. If the South could secure 
ships vastly superior to those of the Union Navy, the blockad 
ing fleet could be sunk or dispersed. If such a plan should 
not prove feasible, sea attacks of another kind might induce 
Uncle Sam to separate his strongest ships from the cordon 
that was tightening around Southern ports and pursue the 
enemy in distant oceans. Mallory's naval strategy compre- 


hended both these methods. For the first the frontal at 
tack the Union Navy presented a tempting opportunity. 
It had one great weakness that easily made it the victim of an 
aggressive foe. The American sea force was almost entirely 
a wooden one. But a new portent had suddenly appeared in 
the navies of the world. That was the ironclad, steam-pro 
pelled battleship. In crude form this new weapon demon 
strated its power in the Crimean War; but, by 1860 and 1861, 
its full meaning had startled Great Britain and France with a 
shock only comparable to the revelation of the dreadnaught 
half a century afterward. By 1861 all Europe was agreed that 
the days of wooden navies were finished. The next European 
war would be won by the nation that possessed the largest 
fleet of steam ironclads. Already, Napoleon III had his Gloire 
and Great Britain its Warrior, practically equal in destructive 
force. Both countries were engaged in a naval race as intense 
as those of modern times. Could the Confederacy have gained 
possession of either the Gloire or the Warrior, it could have 
ended the Federal blockade overnight. The North had been 
backward in building iron ships; "Lincoln's blockade,' 7 in the 
early days, consisted of almost any vessel that could be kept 
afloat and practically none of this miscellaneous line could 
have held the water long after a Gloire or a Warrior had hailed 
within shooting distance. Ironclads, on the model of these 
heroic ships, were what constituted the main purpose of 
Bullock's trip to Europe. 

So much for ironclad battleships for vessels of huge 
fighting power, that could confront face to face the Federal 
blockading squadrons, and by destroying them open the seas 
to Southern commerce. Should this method fail, Mallory had 
another plan for bringing about the same result For this huge 
battleships of the Gloire type were not necessary. Not great 
fighting power, but great speed, was the prime essential. For 
the second method did not contemplate fighting as that term 
is commonly understood. The alternative type of vessel was 


intended to assail, not warships, but those peacefully engaged 
in commerce. The story of the Southern commerce destroyers is 
one of the most romantic of the Civil War. Everyone has 
heard of the Alabama, the Florida, the Shenandoah, and their 
success in almost completely sweeping Union merchant vessels 
from the sea. Yet it is doubtful if their real mission is yet 
comprehended. Desirable as this work of annihilating Ameri 
can shipping might seem in Southern eyes, such depredations 
did not represent the ultimate strategic purpose. That purpose 
was to create a naval diversion that would have ended the 
blockade. In operations on land this is one of the commonest 
of resources ; the European war witnessed a famous illustration 
in 1914, when the Russian army, by its onslaughts on the 
Germans in East Prussia, compelled the Kaiser to deplete his 
forces in France, with the consequence that the German 
offensive collapsed at the Marne. The Southern cruiser pro 
gramme in 1861 was undertaken in the hope of an outcome 
of similar nature. For in only one way could the Union have 
ended the "piratical" campaign now let loose on Northern com 
merce. That was by sending its strongest fighters in pursuit 
of these "highwaymen" of the deep. But the only warships in 
Federal hands and the supply was inadequate to the pur 
pose W ere blockading Southern ports. If these should be 
detached from their Atlantic vigil and scattered to all parts 
of the world in pursuit of Confederate privateers, the blockade 
would automatically come to an end. That was precisely the 
object at which Mallory was aiming. He confidently believed 
that this would be the outcome. The South always insisted 
that the ruling motive of the North was the materialistic one. 
"Yankee cupidity" was the phrase constantly on Southern 
lips. The pride the Northern section took in its beautiful, swift 
sailing ships acknowledged to be superior to anything afloat 
was notorious. That New England would sit by patiently 
and witness this noble armada disappear in flames, or sink, 
vessel by vessel, beneath the waves, no one in the South be- 


lieved A universal demand would arise for vengeance and 
protection; Mr. Lincoln would be compelled to adjourn his 
blockade, and send his warships in pursuit of the Davis 
flotilla. The blockade would end; Southern ports would be 
open to the commerce of the world; cotton would flow out 
freely to Britain and France, munitions would enter at an 
enormous rate; and this great show of strength would end 
in European recognition and the Confederate States would 
assume their position as one of the nations of the world. 

Such was the real purpose of the voyages of that Alabama, 
whose exploits form so stirring a chapter in the history of the 
Civil War. For Captain Bullock succeeded in his first mission. 
He did not build six propeller cruisers in British yards only 
because his money gave out ; but he did, in this first year of the 
war, lay down the keels of two that Oreto and No. 290, 
which, ultimately christened the Florida and the Alabama, 
slipped out of the Laird shipyards and started their murder 
ous slaughter of Yankee ships. Hardly any vessel, ancient or 
modern, is so famous as the Alabama. It not only sailed in 
every ocean, searching out its prey in the Atlantic, the China 
seas, the Arctic, the tropics, capturing and destroying about 
seventy ships and their cargoes ; it had a vast influence on in 
ternational law. For England, in permitting this vessel to be 
built in an English port, and winking at its escape, commit 
ted an error for which it afterward was compelled to pay $15,- 
000,000 in damages to the American Government. Con 
federate histories regard its achievements as one of their 
most brilliant successes. So far as its most obvious triumphs 
were concerned the destruction of Northern commerce 
it was indeed a mighty victory. But in the ultimate pur 
pose it was a failure. It did not break the blockade in the 
slightest degree. The kind of conquests achieved by the 
Alabama were the kind that have little effect in winning a wan 
The Federal Government did not release its warships from 
their task of watching Southern ports, in order to engage in a 


wild-goose chase for this marauder. That would have been to 
fall into the Confederate trap. It displayed far more stoicism 
in facing the destruction of its commerce than Mr. Mallory 
and his confreres had anticipated. Whatever might happen to 
its merchant fleet, Lincoln never had the slightest intention of 
giving up the blockade, for the blockade meant the strangling 
of the Confederacy. The time came when the North did build 
a swift, powerful cruiser for the express purpose of capturing 
the Alabama, and this vessel, the Kearsarge, presently caught 
the enemy off Cherbourg, France, and sent it to the bottom. 
But by that time the Alabama had finished its work, for very 
little American commerce was left afloat Its main mission, the 
ending of Lincoln's wooden wall around the Confederate 
States, it never attained. 


The belief that such depredations would so agonize the 
commercial spirit of the North that it would sacrifice its great 
engine of war thus proved to be only another one of those mis 
conceptions of which Confederate history is so full. Secretary 
Mallory, therefore, was forced to resort to his other manoeuvre 
the construction of huge battleships for direct attack. Soon 
after despatching Captain Bullock he sent Lieutenant James 
H. North to England to purchase or build an ironclad, but 
North soon developed temperamental difficulties and proved of 
no great assistance to the Southern cause. The original task 
laid upon North was, indeed, a fairly staggering one. That 
French steam frigate Glolre, the most powerful warship 
afloat, not only kept British naval experts awake nights 
for its descent on the English coast was a momentary fear 
but had completely captured Mallory's imagination. His des 
patches are full of glowing references to this terrible floating 
fortress. If the South only possessed a ship like this! Then, 


Mallory insisted, and he was unquestionably right, the 
ramshackle Lincoln blockade would vanish. By constantly 
thinking on the subject Mallory conceived an almost violent 
scheme. Why should the South wait to build another Gloire? 
Why not acquire that very ship itself or one of its sisters, 
recently finished? There were difficulties in the way, to be sure. 
This was not only the most formidable fighting vessel in 
existence, but the most expensive. Just where the South could 
raise the money for the purchase, provided the French could 
be persuaded to sell, was not clear. And it demanded consider 
able optimism to suppose that Napoleon III would transfer 
one of his ironclads to Southern waters, much as he loved the 
Confederacy and hoped for its success. The Gloire was the 
pride of the French nation; already the French people re 
garded it as the sure avenger of Trafalgar; besides, though 
Napoleon was a little careless on the subject of neutrality, its 
sale to the enemy of the American nation rebellious citi 
zens, President Lincoln insisted with which France was on 
terms of friendship would be a stretch of that doctrine before 
which even he might be expected to hesitate. Despite this 
Mallory directed North to acquire a "few ships of this descrip* 
tion, ships that can receive without material injury the fire of 
the heaviest frigates and liners at short distances, and whose 
guns, though few in number, with shell or hot shot, will enable 
them to destroy the wooden navy of our enemy." As construct 
ing vessels would take considerable time, Lieutenant North 
was ordered to approach France on the subject of the pur 
chase from the French Navy of "one of the armored frigates 
of the class of the Gloire." s In this lofty negotiation North 
did not succeed; but he did begin the construction of an iron 
clad in Glasgow, Scotland only to be forced, as it neared 
completion, to sell it to Denmark. 

The building of these desired monsters presently fell into 
Bullock's hands. Mallory did indeed attempt the building of 

8 Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Scries 2, Vol. II, p. 70. 


something of the kind in hastily improvised Southern yards. 
The reconstructed frigate Merrimac was his first attempt of 
the kind. When a combination of events, including the inven 
tion of the strange new Federal warship Monitor, caused the 
Confederates to sink this clumsy craft at its Norfolk dock, 
Mallory centred his energy on two ironclads already begun at 
New Orleans, the Louisiana and the Mississippi Farragut 
ended the career of these vessels by his capture of New Or 
leans. One vanished in flames, the other was blown up, and 
so Mallory's hopes of building ironclads in Confederate ports 
disappeared. Bullock and British and French shipyards now 
became his sole resource. 

Simply building the ships involved no problem. British yards 
were eager for sumptuous contracts of this sort once the 
money was safely deposited in advance. But to get the com 
pleted vessels into the open sea was an entirely different ques 
tion. The hullabaloo raised by Uncle Sam over the "escape" 
of the Alabama and the Florida still echoed in the British 
Foreign Office, as it was to do for several years to come. With 
every fresh "outrage," with every capture and sinking of a 
fine American merchantman, these protests sounded a new din 
in the ears of Lord John Russell. Mr. Seward, never a gentle 
soul in his dealings with Governments friendly to the Con 
federacy, was becoming extremely exacting, or "bumptious" 
as the English press put it. Captain Bullock had contracted 
for two ironclad rams of the Warrior type with those odious, 
mercenary Lairds of Alabama fame. Their works at Liverpool 
were overrun by Federal spies ; some were actually engaged as 
workmen on the rams; yet espionage was hardly needed, for 
little attempt was made it would have been useless to 
conceal the real destination of the vessels. 

Bullock, it is true, had "sold" the ships to an obscure French 
man named Bravay, who in turn was ostensibly the agent of the 
Khedive of Egypt; but the subterfuge deceived nobody. Above 
all, it did not deceive the very alert United States Minister at 


London, Charles Francis Adams. The persistence with which 
Mr. Adams haunted the British Foreign Office, the firmness 
with which he laid down the law to Lord John Russell, form 
one of the greatest chapters in American diplomacy. His 
final adjuration to the Foreign Secretary virtually an ulti 
matum is one of those phrases which Americans still love 
to repeat. u Your Lordship knows that this means war,' 5 he 
quietly wrote Russell, discussing the possibility that the iron 
clads, like the Alabama, should be permitted to "escape" into 
open waters. And this time the British Government acted with 
deadly seriousness. On October 9, 1863, just as the rams were 
nearing completion, British officials stepped upon their decks 
and seized possession in the name of Her Majesty. The pre 
cautions now taken against the chance that in the dark and 
fog one or both might accidentally slip their moorings testify 
both to the determination of the British to prevent their sail 
ing and to the high respect they had for their power. Those 
Confederates were clever and adventurous chaps; a Con 
federate crew, with officers, was not far away, prepared to 
convoy their prizes to Southern waters; not impossibly these 
daring gentlemen might attempt a coup, board the ships in 
the night, overpower the guards, and get them to sea. Power 
ful British battleships were therefore placed in the Mersey, 
ready for instant action, and other precautions taken that 
made unthinkable any such effort. So Mallory and Captain 
Bullock found themselves in the plight of Robinson Crusoe. 
That patient exile, it will be recalled, built a large stout boat, 
to facilitate departure from his solitary home, and, as it neared 
completion, discovered that he could not launch it. The Con 
federate crisis was even more disheartening. Eventually Her 
Majesty's Government purchased the Laird rams and added 
them to the British Navy. 

Captain Bullock's reports to Mallory of these proceedings 
are bitter and discouraging. All the hopes and efforts of two 
years crushed at a single blow I His expectations had involved 


nothing less than victory for the Confederate cause. In the 
Mississippi the Laird rams, he believed, would restore New 
Orleans to the South and frustrate Grant's operations against 
Vicksburg and Port Hudson. In the Atlantic they would scatter 
such units of the Federal Navy as they did not sink. "The 
Atlantic coast offers enticing and decisive work in more than 
one direction/' Bullock wrote Mallory, July 9, 1863. "With 
out a moment's delay after getting their crews aboard off 
Wilmington our vessels might sail southward, sweep the 
blockading fleet from the sea front of every harbor from the 
Capes of Virginia to Sabine Pass, and cruising up and down 
the coast could prevent anything like permanent, systematic 
interruption of our foreign trade in the future. Again, should 
Washington still be held by the enemy our ironclads could 
ascend the Potomac and after destroying all transports and 
gunboats falling within their reach could render Washington 
itself untenable and could thus create a powerful diversion in 
favor of any operations General Lee might have on foot. Again, 
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is a city given over to hatred 
of our cause and country. It is wealthy in itself and opposite 
the town is an important national dock and building yard. 
The whole lies invitingly open to attack and destruction. Sup 
pose our two ironclads should steam unannounced into that 
harbor some fine October morning and while one proceeds at 
once to demolish the navy yard and all it contained the other 
should send a flag of truce to the Mayor to say that if 
$10,000,000 in gold and $50,000,000 in greenbacks were not 
sent on board in four hours the city would be destroyed after 
the manner of Jacksonville and Bluffton. Portsmouth could 
well afford to pay that sum for its existence. Philadelphia is 
another point open to such an attack." * 

John Bigelow, consul general in Paris during the war, and, 
on Dayton's death in 1864, Minister to France, held the 
same view. "Had these vessels reached the coast of America," 

* OfficM Rtcordt of tk* U**on and Covf <dif*t* Navies, Scries 2, Vol. I, p. 456. 


he writes, "the territory of the United States might possibly 
now be under two or more independent governments." 5 And 
now John Bull, in obsequious deference to Yankee pretensions, 
snatched away the victory at the very hour of triumph. Dis 
gusted with England, Mallory turned his eyes towards a more 
friendly direction. "The hostility of the British government," 
he wrote Bullock, December 3, 1863, "to our country and 
cause is as unequivocal as is its readiness to respond to every 
insolent demand which the Federal government may make upon 
it and neither government nor people here look for a single act 
or word in aid or sympathy from that quarter. The assurance 
which Great Britain now has that the Union is destroyed 
relieves the war of much of the interest which it presented 
to her statesmen, and mutual exhaustion of the contending 
parties is the work that now engrosses their attention. From 
France, we think from the lights before us, we may fairly 
expect a different course." e For this hope Mallory had ex 
cellent grounds. In fact the possibility of building Confederate 
warships in French yards had been raised by Napoleon him 
self; he had not been pressed in the matter, but had volunteered 
his cooperation. A letter from Slidell, dated October 28, 1862, 
had caused great optimism in the Confederate Cabinet. Nat 
urally Mallory had grasped at the suggestion it embodied. 
In this Slidell had related the story of his second interview with 
the Emperor, this time at the Palace in Saint-Cloud. 

To tell the story of Mallory and his French ironclads means 
again tracing familiar ground. Once more the figure of Maxi 
milian steps furtively upon the stage; again the shifty fortunes 
of Napoleon and his tremulous Mexican empire constitute 
the springs of action. It is impossible, indeed, to touch Con 
federate diplomacy in any of its phases without uncovering this 
insane adventure. For the significant thing about French war 
ship building for the Confederacy is that it was undertaken at 

6 France and the Confederate Navy, p. IV, 

6 Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Series 2, Vol. II. 


the suggestion of the Emperor himself. It came to a point at 
the meeting between Slidell and His Majesty at Saint-Cloud 
in October, 1862. The date is suggestive, as is always the case 
in the tortuous Napoleonic course towards the Southern States, 
It was just after Second Bull Run, just two months before 
Fredericksburg. That is, it virtually marked the high tide of 
Confederate success. The Emperor's Mexican invasion, how 
ever, was not going so smoothly. The first French expedition 
had suffered a severe reverse at Puebla, and a second, under 
the command of General Forey, had recently disembarked at 
Vera Cruz. It was a moment when France needed friends, and 
when an alliance with a victorious Confederacy might safe 
guard not only its present but its future. Inevitably, Napoleon, 
on this occasion, showed his most seductive qualities to Slidell. 
"My sympathies," he again told the envoy, "are entirely with 
the South. My only desire is to know how to give them effect. 1 ' 
Slidell cautiously hinted at one way in which His Majesty 
could show his good disposition. If the Confederacy had just 
one ship like the Gloire, the Federal blockade could be de 
stroyed, and the success of the Soyth be assured. He referred to 
the unsuccessful attempts that had been made to build such war 
ships in England. Napoleon at once picked up the suggestion. 
u Why could you not have them built as for the Italian govern 
ment?" he asked, "I do not think it would be difficult, but will 
consult the Minister of Marine about it." 

Thus the offer for constructing Confederate warships in 
French yards came directly from the Emperor himself. "The 
attempt," Bullock wrote Mallory, "to build ships in France 
was undertaken at the instigation of the Imperial govern 
ment itself. When the construction of the corvettes was in 
process of negotiation, a draft of the proposed contract was 
shown to the highest person in the Empire, and it received his 
sanction; at least I was so informed at the time." Not only did 
the initiative come from this source, but, as the French situa 
tion in Mexico improved, Puebla and the capital presently 


capitulated to the French armies, the Imperial entourage 
became almost insistent. The Minister of State the nearest 
French approach, at the time, to a Premier conveyed the 
news secretly to Slidell that the Emperor wished ram-building 
to begin. Persigny and De Morny were working on Slidell 
to the same end. Thus Mallory had one great ally in his ship 
building undertaking. This was not the love of France for 
the Confederate States, but the desire to split the Union per 
manently in two, so as to assure the success of French im 
perialism on the North American continent. How closely 
the Emperor was involved was evident from the names that 
ran through the contracts. His favorite banker, Emile Er- 
langer, he of the famous loan, father-in-law of Matilda 
Slidell, acted as financial agent, incidentally receiving a 
commission of $50,000 for guaranteeing the payments. His 
close friend, L. Arman of Bordeaux, chief constructor for the 
French Navy and member of the Corps Legislatif, contracted 
for all the ships. All the papers in the case, which are at 
present in the possession of the United States Government, 
make entertaining reading. Tjvo ironclads were contracted for, 
and according to these specifications were to be really frightful 
ships of war. Each possessed, in addition to other armament, 
two revolving turrets, which bore a suspicious resemblance to 
those Mr. Ericsson had placed upon the Monitor. Among 
the other data preserved in our national records are the 
authorizations issued by M. Rouher, French Minister of 
Marine, to the builders, for installing heavy armament. Ac 
cording to French law, no fighting instruments could be placed 
on ships without the written permission of the Government, but 
this was most cheerfully given. The complicity of the French 
Empire in this attempt to destroy a friendly nation is thus 
clearly established. 

But these mighty vessels and the four corvettes intended to 
continue Alabama depredations on American commerce, though 
finished with reasonable despatch, never reached the Con- 


federate Government. Once more the explanation must be 
found in distant Mexico, Before the time came for transferring 
the warships to the Davis Government, the situation on the 
American front had radically changed. For one thing, other 
personages than Mr. Bullock and M. Arman had come into 
possession of these contracts, or of accurate copies of them. 
Mr. Dayton, United States Minister in Paris, had acquired 
not only the documents, including the Erlanger guarantee, but 
all the correspondence that had passed between Bullock, 
Arman, Slidell, Rouher, and other parties to the transaction. 
When Mr. Dayton laid this entertaining evidence before the 
French Foreign Office and categorically and not too diplomati 
cally demanded confiscation of the ships, the shock proved a se 
rious one, even for such masters of duplicity as then guided the 
destinies of France. Other circumstances added contemporane 
ously to the discomfiture. The most discouraging was the 
new picture of the American conflict. By March, 1864, the 
Confederacy was obviously disintegrating. That great triumph 
on which Napoleon III had based his plans was fading more 
and more into the distance. Previously, most European states 
men and military chieftains had taken it for granted that the 
Confederacy would win. In the spring and summer of 1864 it 
was certain that It would lose. Victory after victory was 
perching on Northern arms; the man power and economic re 
sources of the South were growing feebler every day. The 
Emperor Napoleon now discovered, as Lord Salisbury did 
several years afterward, that he *'had put his money on the 
wrong horse." Moreover, that barometer of Napoleonic 
policy in the American Civil War, the Mexican situation, in 
dicated a more cautious attitude toward the Federal Union. 
The friendship of Jefferson Davis, it was now perceived, could 
not promote French imperialistic plans and the enmity of 
Abraham Lincoln might easily destroy them. With that charm 
ing cynicism so characteristic of the Second Empire, Napoleon 
began to seek a new ally for Maximilian. Why not the for- 


merly neglected United States itself? A conciliatory, even af 
fectionate attitude towards Uncle Sam might win recognition 
for the hard-pressed Hapsburg. At least it was the only 
hope of escape left. The effect of the new policy on John Slidell 
has already been described. That envoy was still smarting in 
Paris under the snub administered by "Emperor" Maximilian, 
who politely refused to receive his call. But worse things were 
now to come. In future the Americans to be wooed were not 
those of Richmond, but of Washington. 

Presently a distressing scene took place at the Tuileries. 
Napoleon had summoned his old friend Arman, the builder 
of the Confederate ships. His Majesty had some time before 
sent orders that they could not be delivered, but that con 
structor, well understanding the vacillating temper of his 
chief, was moving slowly. Work, despite the Imperial com 
mand, was still progressing. If Arman had entertained any 
doubt as to the Imperial determination, a single glance at his 
master now quickly undeceived him. Napoleon was in a high 
rage or affected to be. How about those Confederate ships? 
Had Arman not received the Imperial command to sell them? 
Why had he not done so? Why was he still stealthily attempt 
ing to finish the vessels ? Why was he intriguing for the escape 
even of one of the rams? Act quickly, shouted His Majesty, 
or Arman would find himself in prison. And this must not be 
any pretended sale, said the Emperor. "It must be bona fide!" 
If this were not done at once, the French Government itself 
would seize the vessels and take them to Rochefort. Arman 
lost no time in acting on these orders. Without consulting 
Bullock, all four corvettes and both rams had been disposed 
of to Prussia and Denmark. A comic touch to the tragedy was 
an indignant letter from M. Rouher, Minister of Marine, to 
the constructor of one of the cruisers, expressing his astonish 
ment that the offending shipwright was erecting such a lethal 
vessel. This was the identical Rouher who, only a year before, 
had issued his official authorization to arm each of the cor- 


vettes with fourteen heavy guns "canons raye de trente" 7 
"I certainly thought/' Bullock wrote Mallory, "that this 
kind of crooked diplomacy had died out since the last century 
and would not be ventured upon in these commonsense days. 
Captain Tessier saw Mr. Slidell in Paris who told him that 
he had been informed of the sale and was both astonished 
and indignant." 8 From this time forward the Emperor Na 
poleon supplanted Lord John Russell as the most conspicuous 
object of Confederate hatred. England had indeed acted badly, 
but not so infamously as France. The British Government 
had not instigated the building of the ships which it subse 
quently cashiered. That was precisely what France had done. 
The case, Bullock wrote Mallory, was "one of simple decep 
tion. I was, not as a private individual, but as an agent of the 
Confederate states, invited to build ships of war in France. 
The Emperor now favors us so far as to tell us frankly to 
sell out and save our money." 9 "I am prostrated by the intel 
ligence," Mallory wrote Bullock. "Among all the bitter expe 
riences of the war this disappointment stands prominently 
forth, presenting, as it does, among other sad considerations, 
a violation of faith which challenged and received our confi 
dence.". . . "The proof that it furnishes that the plighted 
word of an Emperor is as unreliable as that of princes, in 
whom we are admonished by high authority to place no trust, 
does not surprise me, but, though prepared for the violation 
of his faith, I did not suppose it would be sacrificed in the 
maintenance of a policy no less false than feeble. The time 
is not distant when he will realize the extent of his blunder 
and earnestly seek the good will which he now so recklessly 
rejects." For, Mallory insisted, the Emperor was miscalculat 
ing if he thought that this belated subservience to the United 
States Government would win its support for the Mexican 
adventure. "However well informed a few of the leaders of 

7 Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Series 2, Vol. II, p. 667. 

8 The same. 

9 The same. 


the French government may be," Mallory wrote Bullock, "as 
to the light in which the people of the United States regard 
the establishment of a monarchy in Mexico under an Austrian 
prince, it is quite certain that the French people are very ig 
norant. They are soon to learn that whatever doubts New 
England may entertain on the divinity of Christ or the im 
mortality of the soul or of their own truth and power, she 
has no hesitation about the Monroe doctrine and that no 
man or party can reach power in the United States whose plat 
form does not maintain this as a fundamental truth. What the 
Emperor's course towards our interest may be when he shall 
discover the universal and determined hostility of the govern 
ment and people of the United States to his whole Mexican 
policy I will not venture to surmise, but that this hostility will 
soon be unmistakably manifested to France I have no doubt. 
. . . When the Emperor shall become assured of the views 
of the United States upon this subject and that active oppo 
sition to the permanence of Maximilian's government in Mex 
ico must soon be manifested he will at the same time see that 
the interests of France in Mexico are intimately connected 
with those of the Confederate States." 

The next two years disclosed that Mallory was right. If 
Napoleon believed that quashing Confederate shipbuilding 
plans would win American support for Maximilian, that was 
only one of the numerous mistakes he made in his estimate 
of the American character. In 1866, at the conclusion of the 
Civil War, the State Department sent what was virtually an 
ultimatum to Napoleon, demanding the withdrawal of French 
troops from Mexico. At the same time a large American army 
was moved to the Mexican border. Napoleon could do noth 
ing but acquiesce. He withdrew his French troops, leaving 
Maximilian to the fate which he met at the hands of a Mexi 
can firing squad. 



SEVERAL distinguished members of the Davis Cabinet played 
little part in the Southern Government John C Breckmndge 
Vice President of the United States under Buchanan candi 
date for President in 1860 on the regular Democratic ticket 
one of the greatest of Southern orators, probably the most 
beloved Kentuckian since Henry Clay entered the Davis fam 
ily as sixth Secretary of War m February 1865 in time to 
join the President and his official companions m their flight 
from Richmond on the approach of the Federal army George 
Davis the able North Carolinian who succeeded Watts as 
Attorney General in January 1864 found little opportunity 
for official distinction A man of high character and eminent 
professional talents, an old Ime Whig and lifelong opponent 
of Secession which he reluctantly accepted m obedience to 
the dictum of his state, Davis had the misfortune to head a 
department that existed only on paper The Confederacy 
never developed a judicial system and thus the man who 
served as Attorney General was almost without occupation 
John H Reagan, Postmaster General has his niche in 
American annals not as a Cabinet officer of the Confederacy 
but as a United States Senator from Texas for many years 
after the Civil War, and chief author of the Interstate Com 
merce Law The abilities Reagan subsequently displayed as 
Federal lawmaker he applied to the administration of his 
office m Richmond but the labor was not of a spectacular 
kind and was considerably removed from the conduct of the 
war The Federal Government m the seventy years preced 
ing Fort Sumter, had constructed a complete postal system 


in all the eleven seceding states. Strange as it may seem, this 
organization continued uninterruptedly until June, 1861, four 
months after the formation of the Confederacy. What could 
more eloquently indicate than this the belief, still persisting 
in Federal circles, that the war was merely a temporary dis 
turbance, a riot on a huge scale, the adventure, not of sober, 
earnest men, but, as Lincoln described it in his proclamation 
of April 15, of disorderly "combinations" ? All during this 
time of excitement, Southerners kept contentedly affixing 
United States postage stamps to their mail, confidently trust 
ing that it would be dutifully sent to its destination by a 
power with which they were actually at war. Since the "rebel- 
lion" would be smothered in a brief period, why should Wash 
ington destroy a complicated public service which it had taken 
nearly a century to construct? 

On June 6, however, a Federal proclamation declared that 
mail deliveries in the Confederate states were at an end. 
Then Postmaster General Reagan stepped into the breach. 
The change in status was easily made. The postal service, de 
spite the change in its head, still existed in the Southern states ; 
the post offices still stood, the contracts with railroads and 
other transportation systems were still in force ; the same old 
army of letter carriers could continue making their rounds; 
the former Federal postmasters and clerks were quite pre 
pared to go on with their work. The only visible change was 
that Richmond, instead of Washington, became the centre of 
the organization. One difficulty was the supply of postage 
stamps and other materials needed in the conduct of mails; 
these the Confederacy could not at once produce, any more 
than it could print paper money. Until the early supplies came 
from Richmond, therefore, customers of Mr. Reagan's de 
partment paid cash for the transit of their letters precisely 
as they had done in the old days, before the invention of 
postage stamps. 

Reagan, as Postmaster General, was industrious, honest, 


and successful He even scored one triumph for which the 
Federal post office, before or since, offers no parallel. Under 
him the postal service exhibited no annual deficit. It not only 
paid its own way, but yielded a profit. Reagan accomplished 
this miracle by discharging unnecessary clerks, cutting ofi 
costly and unneeded routes, and driving hard bargains with 
contractors, railroads, and the like, and by increasing rates 
for postage. Thus, in unostentatious fashion, he may be re 
garded as the most successful member of the Administration; 
at least he was the only one who actually performed the task 
assigned him* The high regard Reagan won as Postmaster 
General was further heightened by his career from 1865 to 
1905, for he survived the war forty years, especially by 
the spirit of reconciliation he displayed to the reestablished 
Union, and the loyalty and ability with which he served it. 
Efficiently distributing the mails, however, had only the 
remotest influence upon the fighting of the war. If we seek 
the causes for the rapid deterioration of the South in 1864 
and 1865, we must look elsewhere, In the diplomatic service 
and internal politics are still to be found the causes of the 
final rapid collapse. The failure to elicit the support of great 
foreign nations and the constantly rising predominance of 
certain political tenets above all the doctrine of State rights 
explain why this bold attempt at independence inevitably 
failed. Distrust abroad, political chaos and factionalism 
at home these defects, rather than weakened military 
strength, dug the grave of the Confederacy. 


Anyone who thinks that the publicity agent is a modern 
character should turn to the propaganda service of the Con 
federacy in Europe from 1861 to 1865. Its labor in this 
heroic field presents a study in all the crudities and refine- 


ments of the art. The North, it is true, did not entirely neg 
lect the influence of public opinion as helpmeet to its Army 
and Navy; as its cash resources were larger, so were its ex 
penditures on a more lavish scale; but it is doubtful whether 
its press agents attained quite the skill in reaching foreign 
sentiment as did at least one of the Davis representatives. 
The State Department entrusted this task of spreading the 
"truth" in Europe to two men. One of them, Henry Hotze, 
a native of Switzerland, well-educated, shrewdly intelligent, 
full of youthful fire, had had a brilliant journalistic career on 
the Mobile Register. His companion worker, Edwin de Leon, 
the Confederacy's spokesman in France, fell far behind Hotze 
in ability and finesse. De Leon, indeed, ended his career as 
one of the most entertaining casualties of the time. His pre 
war experience in the United States consular service and his 
close personal friendship with Jefferson Davis seemed to pro 
vide an exceptional equipment for his delicate task. These very 
advantages, however, especially his association with Davis 
and other leaders, inspired in him ambitions far transcending 
those of maker of public opinion and largely explained his 
undoing. Certainly he could not complain of niggardly treat 
ment by Richmond. The starved Confederate Treasury gave 
Hotze $750 as a working fund for publicity in Great Britain 
and De Leon $25,000, for the same missionary purpose in 
France. And Hotze's task was a more exacting one than 
De Leon's. In those days the work of inspiring fervor in 
the breasts of French journalists was no difficult or compli 
cated labor. The formula was simple to the last degree. Edi 
torial opinion in the joyous days of the Second Empire, espe 
cially in the newspapers that had been lukewarm to the 
Confederate Government, was a matter of bargain and sale. 
De Leon began distributing his $25,000 in lavish fashion, 
with fairly magical results. Papers that had violently opposed 
Jefferson Davis now became his most valiant champions. Only 
one stumbling block stood in the way of complete success. 


French newspaper readers, as cynical as the press Itself, recog 
nized the long-familiar mechanism of fabricating public sen 
timent; and De Leon's efforts added much to the gayety of a 
capital trained to lively humor by the operas of Offenbach and 
the comedies of Scribe. 

De Leon sounded a less entertaining note when he pub 
lished a brochure, under his own name, on the rights and 
wrongs of the Confederacy, the chief feature of which was 
a fervid defense of slavery. As the French people hated noth 
ing quite so vehemently as this "peculiar institution," De 
Leon's rhetoric did far more harm than good. On the whole 
the man's literary adventures did not prove to be a great 
success. He might have survived these misfortunes, however, 
except for certain personal failings. For other complications 
rendered him an odious embarrassment to Davis and Benja 
min. On leaving Richmond, the Secretary of State had given 
De Leon extremely confidential letters from Benjamin to 
Slidell. One of these was the message in which, as previously 
described, Benjamin had sought to bribe Napoleon III into 
recognizing the Confederacy and breaking the blockade. On 
the voyage to France, De Leon opened and read these com 
munications; when he presented the documents, with broken 
seals, to Slidell, that diplomat's anger knew no restraint. The 
experience made him instantaneously De Leon's enemy. Slidell 
refused to introduce him to French officialdom, or to facilitate 
his missionary efforts in any wy. De Leon retaliated by writ 
ing an abusive despatch about Slidell to Secretary Benjamin; 
at the same time, evidently stung by French ridicule of his 
journalistic approaches, he expressed most unfavorable opin 
ions of the French people and their Government. Unscrupu 
lous Yankee spies obtained possession of these official papers, 
and, in due course, published them, with conspicuous em 
blazonry, in the pages of the New York Tribune. Both De 
Leon and Benjamin were Jews, but no fraternal feelings^ de 
flected the Secretary of State from his duty in the premises. 


His published correspondence, Benjamin wrote De Leon, 
was of such a nature as not only to destroy your own useful 
ness in the special service entrusted to you, but to render your 
continuance in your present position incompatible with the 
retention in the public service of our commissioner to Pans ' 
De Leon dejectedly returned to Richmond, and fame knew 
him no more 

If the respective sums of money given to De Leon and 
Hotze measured the value placed upon their respective serv 
ices the Government of Richmond made a great error of 
judgment For Hotze proved to be as great a success as 
De Leon had been a failure In mental and literary equip 
ment, Hotze was by far the superior man Only twenty eight 
years old he possessed a suavity a subtlety, and silence in 
method that would have distinguished an experienced diplo 
mat As far back as 1862, he introduced into publicity pro 
cedures those psychological methods ' upon which so many 
modern exemplars pride themselves No bribery for Hotze 
at least, no open, flagrant bribery he approached his prob 
lem in far more msmua mg guise No press agent quite so 
noiseless as Hotze has ever plied his craft Indeed, it was 
not until the publication of his official papers as recently as 
1922 * that many Americans had ever heard his name In com 
parison with Hotze s suppleness and comprehension James 
Murray Mason appears a slowwitted blunderer and even 
John Slidell looks like an unscrupulous marplot Yet Rich 
mond at the time of Hotze s appointment knew nothing of 
the man s deft qualities Clearly no great results were ex 
pected from this youthful propagandist 

Only one point in common did Hotze and De Leon evince 
this was a considerable contempt for the nations whose good 
will it was their duty to conciliate The difference was that 
De Leon published his opinion broadcast while Hotze dis 

4 In Vol 3 Se es II of the Offic I R c d f th Vn * nd C / d at N 
nth W f th R b II n O the 1 tt r th p e nt a nt f H t s ct ty b d 


played his only in carefully guarded communications to his 
Government. His earliest reports reports that were well- 
written and disclosed a sure grasp of English politics and Eu 
ropean statesmen disclosed also complete disillusionment 
on British motives in the American contest. Do not look for 
help or sympathy, he insists unless such an attitude will 
promote British interests I No other than material advantages 
were guiding British party leaders. The Government, the up 
per social castes, the merchants, individuals, and profes 
sional men such was his diagnosis welcomed American 
strife because it meant the lasting dissolution of the Ameri 
can Union. That would be a good thing for England because 
it would open a vast profitable market to her manufactures. 
The North, by insisting on a protective tariff, had closed this 
field to English goods; it was the avowed intention of the 
South to prohibit Yankee importations and to adopt free 
trade with Europe. Here was the only explanation, Hotze 
wrote Benjamin, for such sympathy as prevailed in England 
for the Confederate cause. "Intense selfishness," he wrote Ben 
jamin, August 2, 1862, u overshadows all other national char 
acteristics and this selfishness is narrow-minded, because there 
is not now any truly great individual intelligence to shape 
the national policy. Lord Palmerston's blood is chilled by 
extreme old age; Earl Russell thinks procrastination the per 
fection of statesmanship." a "Reconstruction by the triumph 
of either party over the other is what the government and 
people of Great Britain would make every sacrifice to pre 
vent." * 

Of the London press, whose favor it was his duty to con 
ciliate, Hotze's opinion was not much more complimentary. 
The editors of those staid journals who were quickly swept 
within his orbit would have been shocked had they read the 
secret despatches their friend was constantly transmitting to 

2 Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Vol. 5, Series II, pp. 505-506. 
8 The same, p. 536. 


Richmond. "The English press is not so exaltedly pure," Mr. 
Benjamin was informed soon after Hotze's arrival, "nor is 
that of any other country, but that a man entering its ranks 
with purse held up would find himself practically and in no 
dignified manner illustrating the classic fate of Actseon" 
by which he seems to imply that such an attractive victim 
would be torn to pieces by mercenary journalistic staghounds. 
From such a fate Hotze was safeguarded by the trifling sum 
assigned him for purposes of lubrication. As his usefulness 
dawned upon Benjamin and Davis, Hotze's paltry appropria 
tion was increased to $10,000 a year, but even then he never 
descended to the vulgar methods that had brought such dis 
credit on De Leon. Nor, with lofty-minded journals like the 
Times, the Morning Post, the Standard, the Saturday Re 
view, and the other organs of public opinion that were ulti 
mately swept within the Confederate influence, would financial 
approaches have been conceivable. Here a high order of 
Jesuitry could alone achieve success. 

The London of that day supported a trained group of 
editorial writers, attached to no particular paper. "Profes 
sional leader writers," they were called; like other literary 
journeymen, they wrote their articles and submitted them on 
the chance of acceptance. At least eight or ten of this brother 
hood were sufficiently successful to make a satisfactory living. 
The pay was not bad as newspaper writing goes two to ten 
guineas, $10 to $50, for a contribution of ordinary editorial 
length. The London press, Hotze informed the department, 
was "the most fastidious in the world," and would "never ac 
cept an editorial without paying for it" a punctiliousness 
which facilitated his operations. Hotze had one great advan 
tage for his job. He was a man of culture, well versed in 
European history and contemporary politics and himself mas 
ter of an energetic journalistic style. That is, his talents quali 
fied him for the role of "professional leader writer," and 
such he became, in most unobtrusive fashion. He penned most 


informing interpretations of what was known in England as 
the "American question, " and presented them gratis to chosen 
favorites among this little fraternity. No one knew the secret 
except the two parties in question. London leader writers, like 
all followers of the craft, had weary moments when they 
liked to avoid exertion, and well-written acceptable essays 
such as Hotze's proved godsends especially as all profits 
accrued to their advantage* 

Hotze's lucubrations, quietly promoted in this fashion, 
sometimes attained the loftiest sanctums in London. He was 
able to twist comment on the fall of Fort Donelson in a 
way that made it look almost like a Confederate victory. 
Among the papers inspired to take this view was the Thun 
derer itself; "In one at least of the Times articles," Hotze 
reports to Richmond, "almost my very words are repro 
duced," 4 On February 22, 1862, Jefferson Davis was inaugu 
rated permanent President of the Confederate States; this 
happening would have passed unnoticed in the British press 
had not the leading editorial in the Morning Post hailed it 
as a great historic event. The Morning Post was the personal 
organ of Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister, and the medium 
he constantly used to broadcast unofficially his views and poli 
cies. This conspicuously displayed editorial caused a great buzz 
ing in London clubs* It was even hailed as pointing to British 
recognition of the Confederacy. Whispers went about that 
Palmerston had written it himself. His lordship had no claim 
to this distinction, for the only begetter of the famous edi 
torial was Henry Hotze, though the financial reward was 
reaped by one of the "professional leader writers" whom he 
had made confidential friends. "I have the honor," Hotze 
wrote the Secretary of State, "to enclose my first contribu 
tion to the English press, the leading editorial in yesterday's 
issue of Lord Palmerston's organ, the Morning Post. In read 
ing it you will make due allowances for the necessity under 

* Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Vol. 3, Series II, p. 361. 


which I felt myself of studiously maintaining an English point 
of view and not advancing too far beyond recognized public 
opinion." 5 

But this was only a beginning. Soon Hotze discovered an 
even more ingenious way of utilizing for the Confederate 
cause his little select company of free-lance journalists. On 
May 1, 1862, the first number of one of those weekly reviews 
for which London has always been famous appeared on Eng 
lish newsstands. It bore the title of The Index, and, in format, 
typography, dignified literary style, and general arrangement 
of contents, seemed to be a fit companion of such influential 
periodicals as the Spectator, Saturday Review, and the like. 
That it was greatly interested in presenting the Southern 
viewpoint in the American conflict was obvious indeed this 
was its advertised mission; that it was in any way directly 
promoted by the Confederate Government did not stand so 
plainly on the surface. As far as one could conclude, the Index 
was an English publication, founded by Englishmen and de 
voted to the Confederate cause. Yet the Index was the creation 
of Henry Hotze. He financed the venture in part from his 
private resources; Confederate devotees in the South made 
contributions, and another gentleman who has already figured 
in this narrative Emile Erlanger, who made so comfortable 
a killing in Confederate bonds also came to his assistance. 
Just how much the Index accomplished in directing public sen 
timent and official policy in England is not clear. Necessarily 
it had a limited circulation, confined largely to a free mail 
ing list. In reality, however, the ostensible purpose of the 
Index concealed an adroit scheme of corruption. It provided 
subtle machinery for bribing the press no less palpable be 
cause the victims themselves hardly suspected the truth. Hotze 
attached to the Index, as salaried members of the staff, six 
or eight of the most successful of his beloved "professional 
leader writers." These employees, now having steady jobs, 

5 The same, p. 346. 


- salaries may have been small, but they made a welcome 
regular increment to the journalistic income, became ac 
complished students on the issues of the American conflict, 
and, in a reasonable period, were as competent as Hotze him 
self to discuss them editorially. 

Week after week, for nearly four years, this group turned 
out leading articles for the Index. In his private communi 
cations, Hotze frankly declared that their work for his weekly 
paper itself was not the point at issue. While earning their 
salaries as Hotze's assistant editors, these writers kept up 
their work as contributors to the great London dailies. The 
information and opinions they had absorbed as Index workers 
inevitably formed the groundwork of their contributions to 
leading London organs of public opinion. Thus they received 
double payment. Hotze paid them as salaried workers on 
his staff; the London papers paid them for the same articles 
when warmed over for their editorial columns. This wider 
field was the important one; their contributions to the Index 
were a secondary matter. Hotze's real purpose was to "edu 
cate" the word constantly figures in his reports a group 
of able writers who had a pecuniary interest in spreading 
Confederate gospel in England and Europe. Repeatedly in his 
letters to Hunter and Benjamin he proudly surveys his handi 
work. Popular circulation for the Index? Frankly, nothing 
much Is expected on that score. "The value of an organ," he 
writes, "not merely as a means of reaching public opinion but 
as a channel through which arguments and facts can be con 
veyed unofficially to the government itself, appears to me 
difficult to overrate. The value of the paper as an agency 
through which connections can be established through other 
journals is scarcely less. . . . Every additional contributor I 
am able to employ becomes an ally in the columns of some 
other paper and I frequently employ writers with no other 
object." "The writers employed by me for the Index are 
among the first in their profession, and through them I inspire 


the columns of some of the most influential publications in 
this country." 

He instances as an ally of whom he is especially proud 
"Percy Greg, Esq., one of the most talented leader writers 
of London, who, besides being a valuable contributor to the 
Index, is one of our most efficient supporters in the columns 
of the Saturday Review and other literary and political pe 
riodicals of high standing." "Honourable men might hon 
ourably take their customary fee for the labor of their brains 
performed for me, and the ideas and information thus en 
grafted would bear fruit many fold and on many different 
trees." "One writer usually writes for several publications 
and I have thus the opportunity of multiplying myself, so to 
speak, to an almost unlimited extent." "Few suspect," writes 
Hotze to Benjamin, August 27, 1863, "none know, the silent, 
unobtrusive agency through which it [the Index] has operated 
upon its contemporaries." Occasionally Hotze completely 
threw off the mask. Thus, in January, 1864, he placed on the 
Index staff, as Paris correspondent, one Felix Aucaigne, at a 
salary of fifty francs a week. "You will not be required to 
write for the Index" he informs this new recruit. "Your duty 
will consist in propagating through the French papers the 
views and the intelligence published through the Index" The 
mention of Percy Greg indicates the quality of the men Hotze 
drew within his net. Greg was no gutter journalist, but one 
of the most distinguished contributors to the Manchester 
Guardian and the London Standard, besides the Saturday 
Review. He was also a novelist, a historian, a religious and 
political leader. In after life his hatred for America knew 
no bounds, and his History of the United States is one of the 
most violent polemics ever committed to paper. How much of 
this lifelong hostility sprang from Hotze's "education" (at the 
expense of the educator) is not recorded. 

Any idea that propaganda in wartime is a modern invention 
thus rests upon a misapprehension. Just how effective was this 


attempt to subsidize public sentiment? It did not accomplish 
its great purpose recognition by foreign Governments. 
Hotze, just like Mason and Slidell, had his blind side. None 
of them successfully handled the one spectre that always rose 
and thwarted their efforts. The existence of slavery in the 
South constantly blocked their arguments at the most in 
auspicious moments. It enraged Hotze as it annoyed his diplo 
matic confreres. Everywhere he turned this ogre crossed his 
path. This was one lesson that his salaried writers balked at 
absorbing. On constitutional grounds they most eloquently 
pleaded the cause. An oppressed nation struggling to be free 
always fired their pens. But the spectacle of black men in the 
South of property rights in human beings proved a 
more difficult subject. If his "leader writers" could swallow 
this Institution, the editors of the journals for which they 
wrote set up the bars and articles portraying the beauties of 
the slave system seldom attained publication. Hotze, usually 
imperturbable, lost patience. Like most Southerners like 
Mason and Slidell, who constantly met the same undisguised 
dislike of slavery Hotze never understood European aver 
sion to what, in his opinion, was a beneficent institution. The 
"editorial tyrants," as he called them, who would not admit 
apologies for slavery in their columns, represented the great 
est obstacle to success. Hotze's correspondence illustrates, 
even more clearly than that of Mason and Slidell, the baleful 
effect of slavery in defeating the Southern cause in Europe. 



Another engaging character now makes a final appearance, 
and with his last exploit the story of Southern diplomacy 
reaches its end, A. Dudley Mann, a member of the first Con 
federate mission to Europe, lingered on the European scene 
long after his companions, William L. Yancey and Pierre A. 


Rost, had ended their official careers. When Mason and Slidell 
assumed charge of negotiations with Great Britain and France, 
Mann, for some reason never explained, still retained the 
favor of Jefferson Davis, who appointed him Commissioner 
to Belgium. The post did not lack importance, for the King 
of the Belgians, Queen Victoria's "Uncle Leopold," and 
"father-in-law" of Europe, was regarded by some as the pivot 
of European diplomacy. Charlotte, the consort of Maximilian, 
"Emperor" of Mexico, was his daughter a circumstance 
that, in the early days, made him necessarily benevolent toward 
the South. Despite official friendliness, Mann found little 
scope for his expansive gifts; his labors at Brussels were con 
fined to writing wordy letters to the Foreign Office, enlighten 
ing that department on all the disputed points of Southern 
history and the legal complexities involved in the American 
crisis. Just what effect these dissertations produced on Belgian 
statesmen is not determined; one experienced man of the 
world, however, they excessively wearied. Secretary Benjamin, 
after reading these interminable essays in his Richmond office, 
would usually reply with a deft intimation that his Com 
missioner desist. Mann was the most prolific of all Benjamin's 
correspondents. His literary .exercises, published in the Con 
federate records, fill far more space than those of Mason or 
Slidell. Day after day his despatches fell on Benjamin's desk, 
bulky in size, blowsy in expression, full of false prophecies, 
false hopes, and wild abuse of men whose opinions ran counter 
to his own. Always the South was on the verge of victory; 
always that recognition which never came was only a few 
hours or weeks ahead. Benjamin seldom ever acknowledged 
these communications, or sometimes would acknowledge a 
dozen or so in a few perfunctory lines. Mann's repeated re 
quests for service in wider fields he wished to be accredited 
to Vienna, St. Petersburg, and several other European capi 
tals almost never elicited a reply. To Benjamin's alert men- 


tality, this self-satisfied Virginian was simply a fool, to be 
tolerated only because he enjoyed Presidential favor. 

In the latter part of 1863, Mann fixed his ambition on a 
glorious prospect indeed. His objective now became the Holy 
See of Rome. All temporal sovereignties had turned a cold 
shoulder upon the Confederacy; was it not possible that 
Pius IX, still ruler of the Papal states, might look upon it 
with a more friendly eye? The Pope had sent pastoral letters 
to Archbishop Hughes of New York and Archbishop Odin 
of New Orleans, expressing sorrow at the American conflagra 
tion and hope that it might be brought to an end; here there 
seemed to be an entering wedge. Moreover, one phase might 
have a particular interest for the head of the Catholic Church. 
The Federal Government so the enemy charged was 
stimulating "immigration" from certain European countries, 
especially Ireland and Germany. A large proportion of such 
"immigrants" were Catholics and many, soon after passing 
Castle Garden, found their way into Federal armies. Hence 
rose the story that Uncle Sam was enticing poor Irish and 
German Catholics from their happy European homes merely 
to obtain cannon fodder for Grant's and Sherman's armies. 
These facts, properly presented to his Holiness, might pro 
duce results favorable to the Southern cause. At least the 
prospect held forth temptations to an industrious diplomat 
wearied of Inaction and neglect and keen for distinction. To 
make the Vatican, under Pio Nono, an ally of the Confed 
erate States Mann's imagination fairly burned at the glory 
of such an achievement. 

Mann's commission to Rome entrusted him with no such 
lofty duty. His responsibility, as set forth in that document, 
was a comparatively simple one. President Davis had written 
a letter to his Holiness thanking him for his Christian senti 
ments and earnest desire for peace. Mann had been selected 
as the bearer of this communication. But he started post-haste 


to the Eternal City with far more exalted plans in mind. In 
a few days he found himself seated in the office of Cardinal 
Antonelli, the famous statesman who was Secretary of State 
for almost the entire pontificate of Pius IX. Both Antonelli 
and the gorgeous pageantry of the Vatican fired the excitable 
Virginian. Soon he was declaiming on the iniquities of "the 
Lincoln concern," and his Eminence, according to Mann's re 
port, was expressing his sympathy for the Southern cause and 
his admiration for President Davis. Mann's great opportunity 
came the next day, when he was accorded an audience with the 
Pope. Never had the amiable Pius IX given a more cordial 
exhibition of his benign spirit. He lifted his hands in horror 
so Mann reported at the fierceness of the American strug 
gle and sorrowfully expressed his hopes for an end to the war. 
Reaching for his scissors, the Pope cut the envelope of the 
Davis letter, glanced at the writing, and then looked up at 
Mann rather despairingly. 

"I see it is in English, a language that I do not understand." 
Mann's son, who was present as secretary, then offered to 
translate. "The translation" this is Mann's own report to 
Benjamin "was rendered in a slow, solemn and emphatic 
pronunciation. During its progress I did not cease for an in 
stant to carefully survey the features of the sovereign Pontiff. 
A sweeter expression of pious affection, of tender benignity, 
never adorned the face of mortal man. No picture can ade 
quately represent him when exclusively absorbed in Christian 
contemplation. Every sentence of the letter appeared to sen 
sibly affect him. At the conclusion of each, he would lay his 
hand down upon the desk and bow his head approvingly. 
When the passage was reached wherein the President states, 
in such sublime and affecting language, 'We have offered up 
at the footstool of our father who is in Heaven prayers in 
spired by the same feelings which animate your Holiness,' 
his deep sunken orbs visibly moistened were upward turned 
towards that throne upon which ever sits the Prince of Peace, 


indicating that his heart was pleading for our deliverance 
from that causeless and merciless war which is prosecuted 
against us. The soul of infidelity if, indeed, infidelity have 
a soul would have melted in view of so sacred a spectacle." 

A silence followed the translation. Then the Pope asked: 
"Is President Davis a Catholic?" 

Mann necessarily answered in the negative. 

"Are you?" his Holiness queried; and again the reply 
was, "No." 

Satisfactory and conciliatory as the audience seemed to 
be, it was not without its jarring note. Mann presently found 
that, like Mason in London, Slidell in Paris, and Hotze in a 
hundred interviews, he was facing the one ugly fact that made 
the ways of Southern diplomacy so hard. The successor of 
St. Peter also had his reservations on slavery. Was not the 
North fighting for the destruction of that institution? such 
was the embarrassing question next propounded to the South 
ern envoy. Would it not be "judicious" for the Confederacy 
to consent to a process of "gradual emancipation"? When 
secular voices raised this point in Mann's presence, it usually 
enraged that not too gracious defender, and led him to ac 
cusations of "insolence," "unwarranted interference" in the 
South's Internal concerns, "ignorance" of the only possible 
relation between black man and his master. But the solemnity 
of this occasion precluded the usual truculence. Instead, Mann 
entertained his Holiness with his favorite dissertation on the 
American Constitution. Again those nice distinctions between 
the central organization and the states which formed the basis 
of classic Calhounism were set forth at length. The Confed 
eracy, Mann informed the Pope, could not abolish slavery if 
it would; only the states, in their capacity as sovereigns, could 
do that. Emancipation, by either state or central government, 
would be little less than a crime. "True philanthropy," Mann 
informed Pius IX, "would shudder at the thought of libera 
tion of the slave in the manner attempted by 'Lincoln & Co.' " 


In that case, "the well-car ed-f or negro would become a semi- 
barbarian." Negroes themselves had no longing to be free. 
Those whom Lincoln had emancipated looked lovingly back 
to the old life and wished for nothing so much as to return 
to it. "If African slavery is an evil," thus Mann concluded 
his address, "there is a power which, in its own good time, 
will doubtless remove that evil in a more gentle manner than 
that of causing the earth to be deluged with blood for its 
southern overthrow." 

"His Holiness," recorded Mann, "received these remarks 
with an approving expression." The Pontiff complimented the 
South on its spirit of self-sacrifice and devotion. Devoted in 
deed! responded Mann, picking up the Pope's last word. 
These Southerners had been this "from the beginning; there 
they are still, more resolute, if possible, than ever of emulat 
ing in devotion, earthly though it is in character, those holy 
female spirits who were the last at the Cross and the first at 
the sepulchre." 

"His Holiness received this statement with evident satis 
faction" so Mann informed the State Department. He 
then reverted to the horrible war. What could he do to miti 
gate it even to end it? Mann pictured the plight of those 
Irish Catholics who were enticed to emigrate and then put 
in the front ranks of the Northern armies. Without these hu 
man sacrifices, the war would have ended long ago. The Pope, 
according to Mann, "repeatedly threw up his hands" at the 
revelation. But his greatest horror was reserved for those 
Protestant clergymen in the North who openly approved such 
methods. "Would your Holiness believe," Mann asked the 
Pope, "that these pulpit champions have boldly asserted as 
a sentiment: 'Greek fire for the families and cities of the 
rebels, and hell-fire for their chiefs'?" 

"Certainly no Catholic could reiterate so monstrous a sen 
timent," rejoined the Pope, startled at this information. 

"Certainly not," rejoined the Confederate envoy. "It finds 


a place exclusively in the hearts of the fiendish, vagrant, pulpit 
buffoons whose number is legion and who impiously under 
take to teach the doctrines of Christ for ulterior sinister pur 

"I will write a letter to President Davis," said Pius. He 
then extended his hand the usual sign that an audience had 
reached an end. Mann retired, overcome by the wonder of his 
achievement "Thus terminated," he writes Benjamin, "one 
of the most remarkable conferences ever a foreign repre 
sentative had with a potentate of the earth. And such a poten 
tate! A potentate who wields the consciences of 175,000,000 
of the civilized race, and who is adored by that immense num 
ber as the vice regent of Almighty God in this sublunary 
sphere." How "majestic" had been the conduct of the Su 
preme Pontiff toward Mann when compared with that of 
the temporal sovereigns at whose audience chambers he had 
been pounding in vain for three years I No "sneaking subter 
fuges" at the Vatican! "Here I was openly received by ap 
pointment at court in accordance with established usages and 
customs and treated from beginning to end with a considera 
tion which might be envied by the envoy of the oldest mem 
ber of the family of nations." e 

But even better things were to come. The Pope's promised 
letter to Jefferson Davis arrived in due course. An unexcited 
observer would hardly detect in this communication any great 
encouragement to the Confederate cause. In it the neutrality 
of the Vatican seemed to be impartially maintained. On the 
merits of the conflict the Pontiff observed the most discreet 
silence. He gave expression to the sorrows with which the 
struggle afSicted him, and evinced the conventional wish that 
peace might soon be established. The document itself con 
tained nothing from which even an eager Southerner like 
Mann could derive the slightest comfort. The direction on 

6 For Mann** account of this audience, on which this narrative is based, see Official 
Records of tk* Union and Confederate Navies, Scries II, Vol. 3, pp. 952-955. 


the envelope, however, sent him into ecstasies of joy. For this 
letter was addressed to the "Illustrious and Honorable Jeffer 
son Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, 
Richmond." No other sovereign had ever addressed Mr. Davis 
in this fashion. None had even acknowledged the existence 
of such a nation as the "Confederate States of America." 
Nothing in the intercourse with foreign Governments had so 
chagrined Davis as Lord John Russell's description of his 
"country" as "the so-called Confederate States." Now the 
venerable sovereign of Rome had hailed his contemporary of 
Richmond as a brother ruler. And A. Dudley Mann had 
achieved this great diplomatic triumph! A week after the 
Pope's letter arrived Mann burst in upon Mason and Slidell 
in Paris with glorious news. The Confederacy had at last 
been recognized by a foreign state ! Letters started across the 
Atlantic, conveying the same information. One can imagine 
the emotions that stirred the realistic Benjamin on reading 
Mann's startling epistle. "In the very direction of this com 
munication there is a positive recognition of our govern 
ment. It is addressed to the Illustrious and Honorable Jef 
ferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. 
Thus we are acknowledged, by as high an authority as this 
world contains, to be an independent power of the earth. I 
congratulate you. I congratulate the President, I congratulate 
the cabinet; in short, I congratulate all my true hearted coun 
trymen and countrywomen upon this benign event. The hand 
of the Lord has been in it, and eternal glory and praise be to 
His holy and righteous name." 7 

These congratulations met a chilly reception from the Sec 
retary of State. Nor did Davis look upon them much more 
indulgently. Lyricism in diplomatic intercourse was foreign 
to the cold nature of both men. Neither accepted the letter 
as a recognition of Southern independence, even though the 
superscription courteously adopted the style of address which 

7 Official Records of the Union and. Confederate Navies, Series II, Vol. 3, p. 973. 


Davis had signed to his own communication to the Pope. Mr. 
Mann's interpretation would have astonished no one so much 
as the sovereign Pontiff himself, or his Cardinal Secretary of 
State, one of the most astute of contemporary diplomats. 
Benjamin treated Mann's jubilations with contempt. "As a 
recognition of the Confederate States," he wrote Mann, 
neither he nor the President attached u to it the same value 
that you do, a mere inferential recognition, unconnected with 
political action or the regular establishment of diplomatic 
relations, possessing none of the moral weight required for 
awakening the people of the United States from their delusion 
that these states still remain members of the old Union." 
The Pope's salutation to Davis as "President of the Con 
federate States" was "a formula of politeness to his corre 
spondent, not a political recognition of a fact. None of our 
journals treat the letter as a recognition in the sense you at 
tach to It, and Mr. Slidell writes that the Nuncio at Paris 
had received no instructions to put his official visa on our pass 
ports, as he had been led to hope from his correspondence 

with you*" 

Moreover, certain things in the Pope's letter had displeased 
the President. One expression in particular irritated South 
erners then, as it does the majority of Southerners ^to-day. 
His Holiness had described the great conflict as a "civil war." 
The very use of that term, Benjamin informed Mann, showed 
how far this letter departed from formal recognition. "Civil 
war" indeed! Clearly Mann's painstaking lessons to Antonelli 
and the Pope himself on the nature of the states had been 
thrown away. The Pope completely disregarded the constitu 
tional point involved. The South, Benjamin insisted, was fight- 
ing no "civil war." Such words described a conflict between 
contending factions of the same country. But the one-time 
United States had split Into two independent nations. North 
and South were no more one country than England and France ; 
war between them was no more "civil war" than would be 


hostilities between these two foreign powers. The point was 
not a technical one; it involved the very foundation on which 
the Confederacy rested its case* In calling the prevailing con 
test a "civil war" the Pope had almost broken neutrality 
and aligned himself on the Union side, something far from 
that recognition which Mann had vainly imagined. The ex 
pression far discounted the compliment implied in address 
ing Davis as "President of the Confederate States." 

And so Mann's diplomatic career came to an unglorious 
end. He lingered in Europe for many years. Leaving Rich 
mond, in 1861, this bitterest of envoys registered a vow. He 
would never return home until the Confederacy had become 
one of the recognized nations of the world! Mann kept his 
word. America never saw him again, and he died in Paris, 
in 1889, solitary, unknown, and neglected. 




BY THIS time the work of those Governors who sought to 
fight the war on the principles of Calhoun was bringing its 
appropriate fruit. These Governors were successfully im 
peding enlistments, making impossible a unified command, 
stimulating desertion, destroying the enthusiasm that had 
marked the first year of war, and thus laying the country 
everywhere open to the incursions of Northern invaders. Nor 
were the obstructive Governors, Brown, Vance, Watts, and 
the rest, the most formidable dissentients within the Con 
federacy itself. An early chapter of this volume reviewed the 
career of Alexander H. Stephens and his work in framing 
the new government. Stephens played an even more vital part 
in the last days of the Confederacy and at this time his influ 
ence was entirely destructive. By the autumn of 1864 the 
enterprise which had been so confidently launched in Mont 
gomery nearly four years previously was rapidly on the de 
cline. In finance, in administration, in diplomacy, in military 
effort, in legislation, in popular support, in the essential coop 
eration of state and national governments, every day added to 
the paralysis steadily creeping over the Southern cause. For 
this demoralization no man was so responsible as the little 
spectral figure who held second place in the Administration. 
When Benjamin R Hill, one of the ablest of Confederate 
Senators, declared that the Confederacy had perished, not of 
attacks from the North, but of dissensions within its own 
ranks, it was Alexander H. Stephens that he had chiefly in 


One of the ideas popular with Southerners was that they 


were the legitimate successors to the patriots of 1776 and 
that their Confederacy, not the United States, was the real 
heir to the government set up in 1789. Not the integrated na 
tion to the North, but the Southern league of Confederate 
States, embodied the principles of Washington and Madison. 
In one respect at least the Confederacy followed the historic 
example. Its annals, brief as they were, witnessed a revival 
of many of the controversies that racked the United States 
in its formative era. The administration of Washington had 
hardly started when the great argument began concerning the 
nature of the Federal Government. Two parties appeared, 
Federalist and anti-Federalist, one insisting on a strong cen 
tral government, the other as vigorously proclaiming the su 
premacy of the states. A schism somewhat resembling this 
disturbed the Davis Administration. The two contending fac 
tions adopted no official designations ; indeed, they would have 
denied the existence of a divided public sentiment on this age 
long issue. The South had staked its whole cause on the sacred 
doctrine of state sovereignty, and naturally the existence of 
divergent views of nationalistic centralism could hardly be 
acknowledged. Yet in practice, if not in theory, two schools 
arose that were divided on this very question. Davis and his 
sympathizers never framed their new Southern doctrine in 
so many words, but in act they became a force making for 
concentration in government. One will not find In Presidential 
speeches any evidence of conversion to a once-detested doc 
trine, but in measures adopted to conduct the war, a national 
istic spirit was the inspiration. Even the familiar vocabulary 
of the eighteenth century came to life. Richmond, these neo- 
Jeffersoiiians cried, had become a "consolidated government"; 
Davis, like Washington before him, was seeking "dictatorial," 
even monarchical or "imperial" power; he was as unscru 
pulous a "Centralist" as Lincoln himself; and the "compact" 
which had been established between the Richmond Govern 
ment and the "sovereign states" was being disregarded. In 


seceding from one "despotism ' so ran the protesting argu 
ment the Southern states had merely created another Be 
tween Lincoln and Davis there was really no choice "consti 
tutional liberty * existed neither in the Federal Union nor m 
the Confederacy Whatever side might prove victorious in 
war, it "ft as urged the sacred cause of 'state sovereignty, ' 
the one great principle at issue, had irrevocably lost Indeed 
in reading the speeches Governors* messages and the like 
which form the literature of the Confederacy, the mind re 
verts to Jeffersonians and Hamiltomans of the earlier time 
and to the days when Washington m the eyes of the seer of 
Monticello, was a "monocrat ' seeking to destroy the simple 
Republican virtue of the people and erect a mighty despotism 
on its rums 

It was not only the matter of conscription that formed the 
groundwork of these allegations and aroused conservative 
anger Other pretensions of Richmond similarly set at naught 
the principle on which the Confederacy had come into being 
The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus the setting up 
of martial law, the impressment of supplies taxation in kind 
here were other encroachments of Confederate power as 
despotic as any of the measures that had been adopted by the 
Lincoln Government As the conflict wore on, indeed, these 
hostile critics in the South began more and more to call atten 
tion to certain similarities m the Lincoln and the Davis 
Administrations Both Presidents the fact has been practi 
cally forgotten were operating under the same Constitu 
tion, for Stephens had forced the convention at Montgomery, 
m February, 1861, to adopt the United States charter as their 
form of government And both, despite the difference in their 
political past, interpreted that instrument in much the same 
way In the last three years of the war at least, Jefferson Davis 
followed m the footsteps of that statesman whom, above all 
men, he despised Lincoln carried centralization "despot 
ism,' 1 if you will < into other than military matters If the 


public safety demanded extreme measures, he was prepared 
to place the freedom and services of every individual at the 
disposal of the Washington Government. In the very first 
month he discovered that the ancient safeguard of Anglo- 
Saxon liberty, the writ of habeas corpus, must, in certain crises, 
be dispensed with. When Southern sympathizers in eastern 
Maryland were tearing up bridges, destroying railroads, mur 
dering Federal troops, isolating the American people from 
their Government, and imperiling the cause, Lincoln ordered 
his military authorities to seize suspected fomenters of disor 
der, throw them into jail, and hold them indefinitely without 

Chief Justice Taney might thunder, from the Supreme 
Court bench, that this was a violation of the Constitu 
tion, but Lincoln maintained that it was necessary to suspend 
the writ if the Union was to be saved. When, in the Confed 
erate States, large sections of the populace raised disorderly 
obstructions to military success, Davis made the same dis 
covery. When a community ran riot with spies, deserters, 
"peace" associations, Ku Klux Klans the name had not yet 
been invented, but the thing had been organized for the 
purpose of opposing conscription, weakening the Confederacy, 
and traitorously dealing with the enemy; when cities and coun 
ties had been laid at the mercy of treasonable mobs, Davis 
found that the usual legal procedures of peace times could 
not be depended on. Such disaffected individuals, when ar 
rested, were usually discharged by friendly judges and habeas 
corpus, which required their immediate presence in court for 
trial, became their safeguard. The only way to restore order 
was to do precisely what Lincoln had done in a similar state 
of stress suspend the writ, seize all prospective domestic 
foes merely on suspicion, and throw them into jail. In this way 
Davis became a good Lincolnian, a thoroughgoing nationalist, 
a "despot," and, at his urging, Congress temporarily forgot 
Magna Charta. Lincoln also found that public safety some- 


times demanded martial law. So did Davis; and consequently 
many Southerners who had preached State rights all their 
lives perceived with horror the hand of the central govern 
ment reaching over from Richmond, temporarily closing their 
local courts and constabularies, and placing in their stead gray- 
coated militarists of the Richmond "oligarchy/' 

The adoption of conscription by the Confederate Govern 
ment and the hostility the measure aroused have already been 
described. No procedure could more completely display the 
"tyranny" of a "consolidated government." The individual 
citizen belonged to the state, not the central power; for Presi 
dent Davis to seize a Georgian, a South Carolinian, a Vir 
ginian, and compel him to shoulder a musket and fight at the 
command of Confederate generals no more utter defiance 
of the rights of the states, so it was urged, could be imagined. 
It was "nationalism" on a gigantic scale "federalism," the 
strict constructionists called it, reviving a word especially 
odious to the old classic Southern school. The essence of "fed 
eralism" was the asserted prerogative of the "nation" to act 
directly on the citizen; could any example of such a pretension 
be cited more to the point than conscription? Other extensions 
of national power, as distinguished from state, similarly set 
all Dixie-land in a turmoil. Its civilian population behaved 
much the same as most noncombatants, even when the salva 
tion of the country depended on their loyalty. They objected 
to paying taxes, they shied away from worthless Confederate 
currency, and when they sold food to the army they exacted 
the highest possible prices. Speculators in the necessities of 
life preyed upon their fellow citizens, just as they did In the 
North, and as they have done in all wars in all times. Much 
has been heard of "starvation" in connection with Southern 
armies. Yet at no time in the four years did a real scarcity 
of food prevail in the Southern states; the difficulties were 
those of distribution and speculation. Farmers declined to 
supply the armies except at a profit, and the cornering of 


food and forage was one of the most thriving of occupations. 
Only an imperious centralized power could deal with such 
a situation; "State rights" was a useless reed. Farmers were 
presently outraged at the appearance on their acres of certain 
not too tactful gentlemen, agents of the far-distant Richmond 
Government. These agents gathered in such of the farmers' 
crops as seemed necessary to military efficiency, at prices fixed 
by themselves, paying, of course, in Confederate paper. Be 
sides seizing wheat, corn, and the like, they took wagons on 
the same terms. Any farm horses or mules that looked as 
though they might prove useful in the distant armies of Lee 
or Johnston were also driven away. An always pressing need 
was black manual labor, and the farmer, even though he had 
only two or three slaves, was constantly chagrined to see them 
depart with his crops and other of his stock. Southern agri 
culturists who for years had passed all their spare time read 
ing speeches by Jeff Davis and other Southern orators on the 
sanctity of state sovereignty and the very limited powers of 
a federal government or a confederate one had never 
imagined that, in setting up their new authority, they had 
created a "monster" (such was the popular word) that pos 
sessed immediate suzerainty over its humblest citizens. Per 
haps a state, the abiding place of all power, might consti 
tutionally do such high-handed acts, but could the Congress 
and President of the Confederate States? Not if there was 
any virtue in that gospel for which the South had gone to war, 



Unfortunately for the Confederate cause the grumbling 
did not all arise from the innocent victims. The ablest men 
in Confederate statesmanship, and almost the highest placed 
in its official hierarchy, began bombarding the Davis strong 
hold. The ranking officers of the civil administration, in its 


earliest phase, next to the President, were the Vice Presi 
dent and the Secretary of State, Alexander H. Stephens and 
Robert Toombs. As political thinkers, and leaders closest to 
the popular heart, these were unquestionably the foremost 
men in the Southern Republic. With them must be joined a 
third, the half brother of the Vice President, Linton Stephens, 
a man who, in brilliancy of mind, effectiveness as a speaker, 
and skill as a leader of public opinion, formed a worthy as 
sociate of his more famous mentor. Toombs was the orator 
who, in the mind of Northerners in his own day and our own, 
most vividly personalized the fierce Southern intransigence 
that had precipitated war. Jefferson Davis the words are 
his own made Toombs Secretary of State because he 
wished, by the gift of the highest office at his disposal, to 
reward him for his services in the organization of the Con 
federacy* A previous chapter has reviewed the antebellum 
activities of Georgia's great triumvirate, Stephens, Toombs, 
and Cobb. Another Georgia triumvirate succeeded this in 
wartime. Cobb no longer worked in harmony with his old 
associates, remaining, from 1861 to 1865, a loyal Davis man; 
but Linton Stephens, more distinguished mentally than Cobb 
and far better educated, under his brother's tutelage, he had 
studied at the University of Georgia, the University of Vir 
ginia, and Harvard, much better read, keener in political 
dialectic, stepped into the vacant place. 

Linton was eleven years younger than Alexander, who, a 
lifelong bachelor, lavished upon him all the love and care that 
the normal man bestows on his children; he also possessed 
many attractive traits lacking in his neurotic elder. Physically 
he was a large-framed, handsome man, as conspicuous for 
vigor as was Alexander for feebleness; his massive, Jovelike 
head, with wavy, bushy hair and large features, also made 
strange contrast with Alexander's skeleton of a face. Despite 
this difference In physical frame, the two brothers politically 
were Siamese twins, Living at a considerable distance, they 


wrote to each other almost daily for thirty years. Their letters 
displayed an automatic agreement on all public questions. It 
was with both a matter of pleasing observation that, as each 
new topic intruded on the political scene, both Linton and 
Alexander, in their diurnal epistolary musings, with no op 
portunity for face-to-face discussion, invariably registered 
the same judgment. And this new trio of Georgian states 
manship, confronting the new problems of the war, represented 
a far stronger force, and a far more intellectual one, than 
the old. No single power existed in the Confederacy that 
Jefferson Davis so feared. 

There were substantial reasons for his apprehensions. The 
war had been in progress only a few months when a startling 
situation developed. The two most influential men in the 
Administration were opposing its policies and its chief. 
Toombs, after six months' restless service as Secretary of State, 
resigned that post and entered the Confederate Army. Stephens 
did not resign as Vice President, but he pursued a course even 
more disastrous to the cause. He dropped his gavel as presiding 
officer of the Confederate Senate, Hunter for the larger 
part of the time performing his duties, shook the detested 
dust of Richmond from his heels, and departed for his Georgia 
home. Here he remained during most of the war, a bitter 
spectator of Confederate proceedings, and an open and 
extremely hostile critic; occasionally he returned for brief 
visits to his country's capital, not so much in order to attend 
to the Vice-Presidential task as to make trouble for a harassed 
Government. Both Toombs and Stephens have left posterity 
in no doubt concerning their opinion of their chief. Toombs 
was the more direct and intemperate. His letters to Stephens 
and others, written from the Confederate battle front, discuss 
the constitutional commander in chief in his usual robust terms. 1 

1 These can be read in "The Correspondence of Robert Toombs, Alexander H. 
Stephens and Howell Cobb," edited by XJlrich B. Phillips, and published in the Report of 
the American Historical Association for the Ytar 1911. Quotations in the present para 
graph are from that report, Vol. II. 


"That scoundrel Jeff Davis" is a favorite characterization. 
"He has no capacity to carry on the government. " "We shall 
get our independence, but it will be in spite of him." "Davis' 
incapacity is lamentable, and the very thought of the baseness 
of Congress in the impressment act makes me sick. I feel but 
little like fighting for a people base enough to yield to such 
despotism from such contemptible sources." "The real control 
of our affairs is narrowing down constantly into the hands of 
Davis and the old army and when it gets there entirely the 
cause will collapse. They have neither the ability nor the 
honesty to manage the Revolution." He accused Davis of one 
of the most odious of sins sanctimonious hypocrisy. He 
"clothes his naked villainy with old odds and ends stolen from 
holy writ and seems a saint when he plays the devil." He 
"has outraged justice and the Constitution." "I shall be justi 
fied in any extremity to which the public interest would allow 
me to go in hostility to his illegal and unconstitutional course." 
"The tide of despotism [is] daily pouring itself out upon the 

Stephens had all Toombs's venomous hatred of Davis, but 
his was a more sinuous character- His wartime letters to 
Toombs have disappeared burned by the gentleman to 
whom they were written at Stephens's own demand. References 
to his chief, published in Stephens's own lifetime, betray his 
distrust, but in polite and guarded terms. They appear occasion 
ally in that famous Constitutional View of the War Between 
the States, which engaged Stephens's leisure in the few years 
following Appomattox* Differences arose between him and 
his President so much he admits but they never assumed 
a personal character. Stephens's Recollections, however, a 
diary kept during the summer of 1 865, while he was a prisoner 
in Fort Warren, Boston, and never intended for publication, 2 
sound a more rasping note. The view that Davis was not 
primarily a State-rights man, but a Southern nationalist, is the 

3 It wa* published at late a 


one Stephens sets forth. "He looked to nothing but inde 
pendence and separate nationality." "The only independence 
he was looking for was the establishment of an irrepressible 
despotism of which he was to be the head." "He was no sooner 
established in office under the permanent constitution than 
he began to exhibit total disregard for the principles, aims, 
objects and views of the masses of the people. . . . They were 
fighting for rights, not for dynasty." "Whatever else may be 
said of Mr. Davis, it cannot be correctly said that he was, or 
is a statesman in any exalted sense of that term. It would be 
difficult to find in the history of the world a man with such re 
sources at his command who made such poor use of them." 
"Never did a people exhibit higher virtues in patriotism, in 
courage, in fortitude, and in patience under the severest trials 
and sacrifices. The disasters attending the Conflict are charge 
able to their leaders, to their men in authority, to those to 
whom the control of public destiny was confided, and to no 
one is it more duly attributable than to Mr. Davis, himself. 
He proved himself deficient in developing and directing the 
resources of the country, in finance and in diplomacy, as well 
as in military affairs. . . . His greatest failure in statesman 
ship was either in not understanding the popular aim and 
impulses, or in attempting to direct the movement to different 
ends from those contemplated by the people who had intrusted 
him with power. If he did not understand the purpose of the 
people, he is certainly not entitled to any rank as a statesman. 
If he did understand them and used position to abuse confidence, 
then he equally forfeits the title to honest statesmanship." 
In the early days Stephens regarded the President merely as 
"weak and imbecile," "vacillating, petulant, obstinate," but 
in the latter period, he detected more grievous faults. He was 
becoming a "despot." He was constantly violating the Con 
stitution. Nor did Stephens entertain a high respect for the 
Confederate Congress. It was indeed at times a tumultuous 
gathering, excitement reaching its highest points when Ben 


Hill hurled an inkstand at Yancey, cutting a deep gash in his 
cheek, and when a less distinguished member rushed at another 
colleague with a bowie knife. "Children in politics and states 
manship" so Stephens described these lawmakers. He dis 
misses the Davis Government in one characteristic sentence. 
"The energy I discover now seems to me like that of a turtle 
after fire has been put upon its back" Stephens himself 
presumably supplying this species of incitement. 

Such were the opinions of his chief entertained by the second 
official of the Confederacy, the Vice President, who, in the 
event of death or resignation, would succeed to the first posi 
tion. And such a contingency was not impossible, for several 
times Davis fell seriously ill, and the possibility of Stephens' s 
succession appalled a goodly part of the people. What was the 
real animus of Toombs and Stephens in their opposition? 
Many Southerners, including Davis himself, attributed it to 
unworthy motives. Neither exercised that influence, it was said, 
to which, in his own estimation, he had an inevitable right. 
In 1861 Toombs held the foremost place at Montgomery; he 
was the universal choice, it was urged, for President; only a 
foolish accident 8 deprived him of that intensely coveted 
honor. Before anything else, Toombs was a human being, 
affected by ordinary human passions and failings; obviously 
this disappointment influenced his attitude toward Davis. His 
failure as a soldier did not mitigate his chagrin. Davis's hesita 
tion in making him a brigadier general proved a bad beginning. 
As Toombs had virtually no military experience, the Presi 
dential reluctance in this respect can be understood. Davis 
explained his reason for finally granting Toombs's request in 
a letter to a prominent Georgian. "His abilities as a public 
man were so distinguished and his service in the political con 
test which has freed us from a Union odious to our people had 
been so signal, that I could not but feel a hope of his display 
ing on the field qualities to justify my giving him the post he 

*See Chapter III, p, 96. 


solicited." And then the President drily adds, "This hope was 
not realized." 4 The failure to obtain promotion Toombs 
aspired to a major-generalship still further embittered the 
man. But that these and other misadventures completely ex 
plained his hostility is too sweeping a conclusion, though un 
doubtedly they did much to sharpen Toombs's tongue when 
discussing the President. His real motives he always put 
on higher ground. Davis had proved a "traitor" to the Con 
stitution, had abandoned the doctrine of State rights, was 
seeking to construct a huge personal, nationalistic power on 
the ruin of his country such was the burden of Toonjbs's 
complaint. "I am determined to stand for Congress in this 
district," he wrote to W. W. Burwell, of Virginia, June 10, 
1863. "Mr. Davis' friends talk of opposing me. I am content 
and would rather prefer it. He has greatly outraged justice 
and the Constitution, but the public are disinclined to correct 
abuses when the empire is rocking to its very foundations and 
would not look favorably upon a volunteer opposition; but if 
they make it upon me I shall be justified in any extremity to 
which the public interest would allow me to go in hostility to 
his illegal and unconstitutional course." 5 Davis did oppose 
Toombs's ambition for a seat in the Confederate Congress, 
and did so successfully; the humiliated statesman the man 
whom Stephens called "the brains of the whole concern" 
was forced, for a time, to retire to his country home, and solace 
himself reading his favorite economists, Bastiat and Ricardo. 
Though the motives of Toombs in fighting Davis are 
evidently mixed, the case of Stephens presents no great 
problem. For his mentality had all the simplicity of a fanatic. 
In temperament, in directness, in concentration on a single 
purpose, Stephens had all the intensity of a William Lloyd 
Garrison. Had Stephens been born and trained in New 
England, he would probably have been an abolitionist him- 

4 Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist, Vol. VI, p. 44. 

5 Annual Report of American Historical Association, 1911. Vol. II, p. 619. 


self and brought to that cause all the fire, all the utter con 
fidence in his own principles, all the contempt for opposing 
beliefs, which marked the extreme antislavery men, just as 
they marked the Southern advocates of a radically different 
gospeL Stephens had the earnestness and the sincerity that 
make his type so dangerous. Like all emotionalists, he could see 
only one side, never comprehended that there might be another, 
never perceived any qualifications of his general thesis, and 
was always ready to sacrifice the world itself so long as his 
conviction might prevail. Substitute for abolitionism the ob 
jective which the Georgian called "Constitutional liberty" and 
Stephens and Garrison belong in the same galley. To a problem 
that was extremely complex both men detected only one glar 
ingly simple solution. To this conviction they would give up 
everything, even their Government Itself. To lay aside tempo 
rarily certain principles in order to gain eventually the main 
end, to give way on details in order to achieve the great 
essential statesmanship like this, in the mind of both Garri 
son and Stephens, was Machiavellian, Jesuitical; just as Garri 
son would willingly destroy the Constitution if thereby his 
antislavery crusade could be advanced, so Stephens was ready 
to jettison the whole Confederacy if thereby Constitutional 
liberty" could be preserved. "Better," he writes to his brother 
Linton in August, 1862, concerning the suspension of habeas 
corpus and the establishment of martial law by certain Southern 
generals, "that Richmond should fall and that the enemy's 
armies should sweep our whole country from Potomac to the 
Gulf, than that our people should submissively yield obedience 
to one of these edicts," In other words the people should defy 
their own Government and deliver the Confederacy to the 
Invading hosts, whenever, in Stephens's own judgment, "Con 
stitutional liberty" should be temporarily threatened. Egotism 
could go no further, and Stephens, like all uncompromising 
pursuers of abstract doctrine, was a supreme egotist. 

"Constitutional liberty" meant the finespun "compact 


theory" so painstakingly evolved by Calhoun. That the mean 
ing of the Federal Constitution, whether it concerned a 
federation of states or a concise system of national govern 
ment, had been argued continuously from the day it emerged 
from the Philadelphia convention all this learned dis 
putation Stephens disregarded; the Constitution meant pre 
cisely what Stephens said it meant, and the opinions of such 
minds as Hamilton, Madison, John Marshall, Webster, and 
Lincoln were brushed aside as though they had never existed. 
The Constitution, he declared, forbade conscription in warfare, 
the suspension of habeas corpus, martial law, the impressment 
of military supplies; because the Confederacy had resorted to 
all these and other measures, Davis had become an imperial 
despot, and "constitutional liberty" had ceased to exist. Better, 
therefore, that the whole fabric fall in ruins. It is questionable 
whether Stephens really desired Confederate success after the 
enforcement of conscription. A note, almost of exultation, is 
sounded in the post-mortem on his country which Stephens 
penned while a prisoner in Fort Warren, Boston Harbor. 6 
Why had the experiment failed? Because the Davis policy 
would have led "to a centralized, consolidated, military despot 
ism, as absolute and execrable as that of Russia or Turkey." 
The Confederacy was doomed such is the sum of the mat 
ter because it proved faithless to that interpretation of the 
Constitution that Alexander Stephens insisted was the only 
tenable one, and the man seems to find a certain recompense in 
this justification. 



Unlike William Lloyd Garrison, Stephens was a powerful 
public man, the idol of that Georgia which became the pivot 
of the Confederate cause, Davis had distrusted him from the 

. * "Rt collections t Alexander H. Stephens, pp. 165-170. 


earliest days in Richmond. The Stephens policy had been 
equivocal from the first. Never had the brothers evinced that 
whole-souled support of the movement without which no revo 
lutionary enterprise can succeed. They joined the Government 
hesitatingly, protestingly, and this attitude they maintained, 
with daily increasing recalcitrancy, until the final collapse. On 
the eve of Secession, the Stephens brothers insisted that all 
genuine Southern grievances could be adjusted within the 
Federal Constitution, an attitude that affected their course 
throughout the four years of war. Alexander shocked extreme 
Southern men at Montgomery by proposing a clause in the 
Constitution admitting nonslaveholding states to the Con 
federacy; his objective, in making this suggestion, was the 
Northwestern country, but, as time went on, Stephens conceived 
a more grandiose plan. Having no sympathy with the Davis 
scheme of Southern nationalism, of a second American Re 
public, Stephens actually dreamed of restoring the old Union 
under the sheltering aegis of the Confederate Constitution. 
Any vagaries from a man capable of such imaginings might be 

At the Montgomery convention, Stephens displayed his 
lack of Southern patriotism in other ways. Elected Vice Presi 
dent, he sulked at the inauguration. From him, one of the 
greatest Southern orators, the people, then in a mood of 
exaltation, expected a ringing speech; instead, they got only 
a few unhearty sentences. At nearly the same time Stephens, 
infected, it would almost seem, by a perverse spirit, made an 
other speech in which he described slavery as "the cornerstone 
of the Confederacy." Here was one of those unhappy phrases 
that frequently dominate history; widely published in England 
and France, this Vice-Presidential dictum aroused great 
hostility to the Davis Government and was regarded, by many 
Southerners, as largely responsible for the failure of Con 
federate diplomacy. Henry Cleveland, Stephens's close friend 
and first biographer, declares that from the beginning the 


South regarded Stephens as a "union man at heart." "Stephens 
and Toombs always liked their seats in the old Congress better 
than anything less than the head of the Confederacy." 7 
Naturally relations between President and Vice President took 
on a certain frigidity* At first, Davis made confidential ap 
proaches and sought his colleague's advice ; after the removal 
to Richmond, however, and after the little figure of Stephens 
was frequently observed on the floor of both houses of Con 
gress, openly lobbying against administration measures, these 
consultations ceased. The remarks of Linton Stephens and 
Toombs, intemperately abusing Davis, and the criticisms of 
Mrs. Toombs, ridiculing the President and his wife, and their 
social functions, did not improve the situation. From mere 
coldness the tension rapidly increased to undisguised hostility. 
All official association ceased; the cold, studied courtesy with 
which the two men treated each other in public only emphasized 
the dislike that prevented all cooperation in public work. In 
time, even routine civilities were abandoned; toward the close 
of the contest, the President would not even receive personal 
calls from his second in rank. On one occasion Stephens 
afterward told the story himself the Vice President ascended 
the Davis doorstep, and pulled the bell three times. Davis, 
whose presence was known to his caller, declined to admit him. 8 
In one moment of exasperation Davis offered to resign the 
Presidency provided Stephens would also lay down his 
office; he would never transfer the Government to a man, he 
declared, who would at once surrender it to General Grant. 9 
This was probably merely an expression of anger, not a 
seriously contemplated program; at the time the remark was 
made the rift between President and Vice President had be 
come too wide to be bridged. The real cause of dissension was 
more than personal; it had reached a point where Stephens's 

7 Cleveland to Davis, January 4, 1888. Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist, Vol. X, 
p. 22. 

'Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist, Vol. VIII, p. 213. 

8 The same, James Lyon (member of Confederate Congress) to W. T. Walthall. 


activities were endangering the Confederacy itself. A previ 
ous chapter has reviewed the obstructions to military effi 
ciency raised by Governor Joe Brown of Georgia, especially 
that opposition to conscription which probably explains, more 
than any single circumstance, the complete breakdown of the 
Southern army* It is now no secret that Stephens provided the 
brains and inspiration to this difficult Governor. Herein is 
found the reason for Stephens's long absences from Richmond. 
He wished to remain in Georgia, where he could serve as a 
constant incitement to his friend. For three years the elfin fig 
ure of Stephens an undying spirit of discontent hovered 
beside the bucolic statesman from the Georgia mountains. 
In his frequent trips to Milledgeville, Stephens used the "ex 
ecutive mansion 1 * as his hotel; he spent hours and days at the 
state capitol mingling with the lawmakers, adding fuel to 
their hostility to the Davis Administration. All during this 
period 1862-1865 the Georgia Legislature was distin 
guished above those of other Confederate states for the con 
tempt evinced for the Richmond Government a contempt 
expressed in many acts that hampered military success. The 
real inspirer of this attitude was the best loved Georgian of 
his time, Alexander H. Stephens, Governor Brown's long and 
angry correspondence with Davis did much to hamstring the 
War Department; m these letters the literary style of the 
craftsman of Liberty Hall, as well as his political tenets, was 
only too apparent- That Stephens actually wrote the most de 
structive of Brown's messages that of March, 1864, which, 
widely distributed by its putative and its actual authors among 
Confederate troops at the front, helped to break down military 
morale was W ell known at the time. Benjamin H. Hill wrote 
sardonic congratulations to Stephens. "I know I must thank 
you for it," he said. "Governor Brown can never repay you 
for the great benefit you have bestowed on him. His only 
trouble can be, the footprints are too plain not to be recog 
nized." Stephens's admiring opinion of Brown and his courses 


has been incorporated in his printed works. "He is, in every 
respect, entitled to high rank among our men and states 
men. . . . No truer man to our course lived, while its stand 
ard was up, than Governor Brown." 10 He valiantly defended 
Brown against the charge, generally made in 1864 and since, 
that the Governor wished to withdraw Georgia from the Con 
federacy, and make separate terms with Lincoln. Brown op 
posed a resolution in the Georgia Legislature expressing con 
fidence in Jefferson Davis; in this opposition, Stephens in 
sisted, the Governor's motives had been "pure"; thus had he 
shown his loyalty to the "cause" the cause, that is, not of the 
Confederacy, but of "constitutional liberty," as Stephens un 
derstood that term. 

It is not strange, therefore, that Georgia, in the spring of 
1864, closely approximated that position which Austria reached 
in the autumn of 1918, when, departing from its alliance with 
the Central Powers, it sought independent peace with the 
Allies. The leaders in this Confederate demarche "separate 
state action," the proponents called it were the Stephens 
brothers, Alexander and Linton, Robert Toombs, and Joseph 
E. Brown* To what extent could their manoeuvres at this crisis 
be described as independent action by the "Republic of Geor 
gia" exercising its own "supreme sovereignty," irrespective 
of the central government at Richmond? It is a point on which 
historians are not agreed. Toombs and Stephens spent a good 
deal of their subsequent careers explaining the falsity of this 
charge, and Governor Brown always indignantly denied that 
his statesmanship contemplated disloyalty to the Confederacy. 
Henry Cleveland, the biographer personally closest to Ste 
phens, insists that his hero was planning something of this 
description. The Stephens purpose was peace through the 
"people and the states alone; this," says Cleveland, "was 
Stephens' and Brown's lifelong craze." n In a letter written 

10 Constitutional View, Vol. II, p. 656. 

11 Jeftrson Davis, Constitutionalist, Vol. IX, p, 603. 


to Davis, November 25, 1887, Cleveland tells the aged ex- 
President how Toombs and LInton Stephens used to visit 
"my quarters 1 ' Cleveland was editor of the Dally Constitu 
tionalist of Augusta, Georgia u and abuse you by the 
hour." u A more recent student of Stephens's career, Louis 
Beauregard Pendleton, thinks that Stephens's speech before 
the Georgia Legislature, March 5, 1864, hinted at the pos 
sible secession from the Confederacy of North Carolina and 
threatened the secession of Georgia. 13 Certainly many loyal 
Confederates at the time regarded Stephens's pronouncements 
in this light. Benjamin H. Hill publicly denounced him as a 
"traitor." Newspapers all over the South echoed the charge; 
that small section of the Georgia press strongly pro-Davis 
joined in the general denunciation. Anonymous letters from all 
over the South fell on Stephens's desk. Should Davis die, these 
missives declared, Stephens must at once resign or be assas 
sinated. Loyal upholders of the regime would never tolerate 
the succession of such a u traitor" to the Presidency. 

The resolutions introduced in the Georgia Legislature in 
March, 1864, by Linton Stephens and the speech of Alexan 
der supporting them were interpreted by these elements as a 
threat to withdraw from the Confederacy and to imply a sep 
arate peace, on the basis of a return to the Union. That the 
Georgia Legislature passed the measures increased this appre 
hension. Naturally the Northern press exulted over this show 
of a new Southern temper. Editors north of the Potomac ac 
cepted the Stephens "peace resolutions" as an olive branch 
extended to the Lincoln Government. General Sherman wrote 
not only Brown, but Stephens, proposing a friendly consulta 
tion. The agitation had a most depressing effect on the 
stamina of Confederate soldiers. For these resolutions asserted 
the right of any state to secede from the Confederacy when 
ever the central government, in its judgment, failed in its duties 

w The . 

** Alexander K. Stefan*, by Louis Beauregard Peadleton (1908), p. 314. 


to the people. Ostensibly these sections referred to the de 
parture, in 1861, from the Federal Union, but certain clauses 
hinted broadly that this right extended to any government 
which a dissatisfied state had joined. For the declarations 
called for peace "upon the principles of 1776" and though 
they urged the general government to take steps in this direc 
tion they also insinuated that this was not the only method by 
which this object could be attained. Not only could the Con 
federacy make peace, but also "the people acting through 
their state organizations and popular assemblies." It is not 
strange that the loyal South believed that such expressions 
concealed a threat; if President Davis did not move for 
peace, then the proper authorities of the state of Georgia 
would do so! When other states, especially North Carolina, 
Alabama, and Davis's own Mississippi, passed similar resolu 
tions, the disintegration of the Confederacy seemed fairly 
under way. 

Meanwhile Georgia's other favorite son plunged into the 
fray. Toombs hurled a new word into an already sufficiently 
disintegrating argument. This statesman always liked to call 
the Southern cause a "revolution." Now he began loudly to 
demand a "counter-revolution." A speech of Toombs, made 
in January, 1864, resounded with hostility to Davis and to the 
Confederacy as then administered. "I am a revolutionist for 
liberty and I will be one till I get liberty. If the Yankees stand 
in the way I am their enemy. If domestic traitors stand in the 
way I am their enemy." The speech rang with references to 
certain potentates of the past Charles I, James II, Louis 
XVI who had lost their thrones or their heads for ravish 
ing from their people certain safeguards of liberty, such as 
habeas corpus. Every "villain" who followed in their path 
should meet a similar fate ! The frequent allusions to Jefferson 
Davis left little doubt as to what particular "villain" Toombs 
had in mind. "The President has proclaimed to the country 
and to the Yankees that half of our army has deserted. I hope 


this is not true; but if they have deserted, what has caused it?" 
Conscription and the suspension of the sacred writ! u When 
they put you all under one man and take away the habeas corpus, 
it is time to draw the bayonet. . . . Better die than bear such 
oppression; die and leave a glorious name like Brutus, the 
watchword of patriots for all time, or Cromwell, clouded for 
two centuries, but now shining with lustre. Save your country, 
your family ; above all, save liberty. I address you as citizens, 
not as soldiers. As citizens defend liberty against Congress [the 
Confederate Congress], against the President, against who 
ever assails it You had liberty before the President was born, 
and I trust you will have it after he is dead. ... I look for 
no mutiny, unless it be necessary in defense of constitutional 
liberty. If invasion of these rights came by one, resist him; 
if by many, resist them. How shall you resist? First go to the 
courts. But if they will not give you justice, still defend your 
rights* . . . Conscription had never been heard of in the 
Anglo-Saxon race until the reign of Mr. Davis." M 


It is not likely that the Southern cause fell in ruins because 
Davis was too much of a despot; rather because he was not 
despot enough. He quickly abandoned his State-rights philoso 
phy when faced with the inexorable realism of war, but the 
opposition of the Stephens school made him tread the new 
path warily and prevented the full application of that central 
ized nationalism that Lincoln so effectively made the basis of 
the Federal effort. Meanwhile, everywhere in the Confederacy 
Stephens and his sympathetic Governors, Brown in Georgia, 
Watts in Alabama, Bonham in South Carolina, Clark in Mis 
sissippi, Murrah in Texas, by conducting this incessant cam- 

** The text from which the*e quotations arc taken is that published by Henry Whitney 
Cleveland in Tom Wat*on* Jefftrsonian MAgatdnc, Vol. XIV, No. 1 (1911). 


paign against the only measures that could have brought vic 
tory, precipitated chaos. Had the Confederacy, at the begin 
ning, husbanded its great material asset cotton and thus 
built a solid financial and economic structure; had it rigidly 
enforced conscription, overridden opposition by suspending 
habeas corpus and martial law in such places as the circum 
stances made necessary; had it regulated its abundant food 
supplies and intelligently applied them to the support of the 
army and the civilian population, the war might have reached 
a different end. It did all these things deprecatingly and piece 
meal. The enemy that faced it on every front was more than 
the armed forces of the Federal Union; it was that doctrine 
of State rights that led to secession and then, when adapted 
to the Confederacy itself, destroyed its vitality and made use 
less the splendid exertions of its ably led military forces. 

General Lee saw the inevitable end in the latter part of 
1864; then he informed certain friends that the South was 
doomed. As late as January, 1865, Alexander Stephens was 
proclaiming that the cause could still be saved. How? By 
ending conscription and other imperialistic" measures and 
fighting the war on the basis of "constitutional liberty" that 
is, his extreme form of State rights !. Still, he insisted, peace 
could be arranged with the North, on this everlasting prin 
ciple. In March, 1865, Davis decided to let him try; it was 
the best way, he probably thought, of silencing this disruptive 
influence. A mysterious visit made to Richmond by Francis 
P. Blair, supposedly a confidant of Abraham Lincoln, had 
given rise to the belief that a meeting between Confederate 
and civilian leaders could arrange peace on terms satisfactory 
to both sides. Davis yielded to urgent demands to participate 
in such a gathering, and, very shrewdly, appointed Alexander 
H, Stephens chairman of the Confederate mission. An historic 
conference took place between Stephens, Hunter, and Judge 
Campbell representing the South and Abraham Lincoln and 
William H. Seward representing the North, on board a ship 


in Hampton Roads. The last sentence of Davis's brief letter 
of Instructions made this consultation a failure before it began; 
here again Jefferson Davis, the Southern nationalist, comes to 
the front Stephens and his companions were to negotiate "for 
the purpose of securing peace to the two countries. 7 ' Two 
countries! The North had never acknowledged the South to 
be a "country" and had waged terrible war for four years to 
prove that it was not. That was the very issue of the struggle. 
Stephens was right when he declared afterward that Davis had 
shackled his Commissioners and made negotiations impossible. 
He was himself eager to discuss the return of the South to the 
Union, so long as his sacred "principle" "constitutional lib 
erty" was safeguarded. The result was a pleasant meeting 
of old companions in Congress, a charming exchange of remi 
niscences, and a few chatty anecdotes from Mr. Lincoln. But 
when the Federal President gave his terms for a cessation 
of fighting a chill fell upon the gathering. When Stephens 
asked if there was any way of ending the war Lincoln an 
swered: "There is but one way. That is for those who are 
resisting the laws of the Union to cease that resistance. . . . 
The restoration of the Union is a sine qua non with me." That's 
all there was to the much-discussed Hampton Roads Confer 
ence. Should the South lay down its arms and return to the 
Union? Lincoln held forth hopes that it might be recom 
pensed for its emancipated slaves, for, of course "the south 
must now be convinced that slavery is doomed." 

Only one man, civilian or soldier, now believed that South 
ern independence could still be saved. Davis, on the return 
of the Commissioners from Hampton Roads, prepared for 
one final rally at the African church in Richmond. In his 
eloquent speech on this occasion, the President proclaimed 
that Southern independence could still be Achieved: that the 
Confederacy, indeed, stood on the brink of a great victory. 
Stephens subsequently recorded his opinion of this oration. 
"Brilliant though it was, I looked upon it as not much short 


of dementation." 15 Davis, laying aside his hatred of Stephens 
personally, appealed to him to appear on this platform in a 
final attempt to keep the cause alive. The Vice President re 
fused. There was not the slightest possibility, he said, of 
breathing life into the corpse. It would be a crime to give the 
people false hopes. 

"What are you going to do? 1 ' asked Davis. 

"I intend to go home and remain there," replied Stephens, 
abruptly leaving the room. 

The next meeting of the President and Vice President took 
place on a boat in the Savannah River. Both were prisoners 
of the United States Government. One was on his way to 
a two-year torturing confinement in Fortress Monroe, await 
ing a trial that was never held; the other was destined to 
Fort Warren in Boston Harbor, whence, after a summer's 
sojourn, he was pardoned on his own application to Andrew 
Johnson, and restored to freedom. Stephens survived the war 
eighteen years, spending part of his new leisure writing books 
to show the reasons for Southern failure. Chief of them was 
the obtuseness of the Confederacy in ignoring his own ideas. 
Had his philosophy prevailed, the Confederacy so ran his 
argument would have prevailed. And what was his philoso 
phy? Nothing less than that doctrine of State rights which 
really brought it to grief. This was the truth that never pene- 
trated Stephens's mind. 

15 Recollections, Alexander H. Stephens, p. 241. 



THE chief documentary materials for the Civil War are the 
Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies in the 
War of the Rebellion, 130 volumes, and the Official Records 
of the Union and Confederate Navies, 31 volumes, publications 
of the United States Government. Though these are military 
and naval records, they contain also a good deal of information 
on civil affairs. This is especially true of the third volume of 
the second series of naval records, which is a reprint (in large 
part) of the diplomatic correspondence of the Confederate 
Government, reproduced from the Pickett Papers. The Con 
federate Congress made no stenographic report of its proceed 
ings, which were, in the main, secret. Its Journal, merely a 
skeletonized record, was published in seven volumes in 
1904-1905 by the Government Printing Office in Washington 
as a Senate Document of the Fifty-eighth Congress, Second 
Session, All the Presidential messages, reports of Cabinet 
Secretaries, and the like appear in James D. Richardson's 
Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, 
including the Diplomatic Correspondence, two volumes (Nash 
ville, 1905). 

The records of the Confederate State Department are fairly 
complete. They exist, in manuscript form, in the Library of 
Congress, and are known as the Pickett Papers. Their story is 
briefly related in the preceding text. The Library of Congress 
contains also the private papers of James Murray Mason, 
Confederate Envoy to Great Britain, including not only his 
own correspondence, but many letters from contemporaries, 
especially fellow diplomats in the Confederate service. Slidell 
destroyed all his papers, but many of his letters to Mason are 
in this collection- 



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Adams, Ephraim D., on Lord John 
Russell's motive in effort toward 
Confederate recognition, 279-280 

Adams, Henry, on James Murray 
Mason, quoted, 233, 267-268_; on 
Lord Russell, quoted, 265; opinion 
of Lord John Russell, 277-279 

Adams, John Quincy, and antislavery 
petitions, 32 

Adams family, on James Murray 
Mason, quoted, 233 

Agricultural crops, comparative val 
ues of, in 1850, 55 

Agricultural poverty of South, 27 

Agriculture, wasteful method in new 
Southern country, 26-27 

Alabama, and new South, 45 

Alabama, 321, 373, 374, 375; escape 
of, 279 

Albert, Prince Consort, and Trent af 
fair, 249-250 

Antonelli, Cardinal, 402 

Arkansas, and Confederacy, 8 

Arman, L., of Bordeaux, contractor 
for Confederate shipbuilding, 382, 
383, 384 

Arnold, Matthew, attitude toward 
American Civil War, 255 

Ashburton treaty, 259 

BACON, p. FRANCIS, re Benjamin ex 
pulsion from Yale, quoted, 160- 
161, 163 

Barn well, Robert, 95; at Montgomery 
Convention, 192 

Baroche, 299 

Bath, Marquis of, 268 

Bayard, Thomas F., 162^ 

Beaure&ard, General, dispute with 
Davis, 177; 325, 329 

Beecher, Henry Ward, 160 

Belmont, August, 287 

Benjamin, Judah P., 9-10, 94, 95; 
Toombs and, 73 ; in Davis Cab 
inet, 104; Attorney General, 153; 
birth and forebears, 154; early 
life, 158-159; in New Orleans, 
164-169; marriage, 166-169; char 
acteristics, 156 et seq. t 171-175; 
his secretiveness in personal mat 
ters, 157-159; devotion to sister, 
169; education and accomplish 
ments, 173 ; "The brains of the 
Confederacy," 153-187; Yale in 
cident, 159164; comparison with 
Disraeli, 155-156; as legal au 
thority, 173 ; influence with Jef 
ferson Davis, 174-181; in Senate, 
169-175; succeeds Walker as Sec 
retary of War, 182-185; trans 
ferred to State Department, 185; 
and proposed transcontinental 
railroads, 175 ; and Mexican di" 
plomacy, 110; seeker of Mexican 
concessions, 118, 119; and cotton 
in Confederate finance, 203, 207; 
Slidell and, in Erlanger loan 
transaction, 222-225, letter from 
Hotze, re Erlanger loan, 230; 
business intimate of Slidell, 287; 
and mission of Slidell in Paris, 
283 et seq.; and Federal blockade 
in foreign policy, 271; foreign 
policy, 369 ; and Federal block 
ade, 276; and Houmas scandal, 
292-293 ; and French aspirations 
in Mexico, 308; and British 
policy, 310; "wedge-driving" 
method in Franco-British rela 
tions, 310 et seq,; proposed bribery 
of France, 311-314; and French 
policy, 322; letter to, from Henry 
Hot2e, quoted, 281 ; and Hot2e, 
393; and >e Leon, 391-392; and 
Mann, 400 et seq. 

Bennett, Thomas, 189 

Beresford-Hope, 268 

Berryer, M., 305-306 

Bigelow, John: United States Consul 
General in Paris, on Erlanger 
loan, 226; letter to Seward, 
quoted, 226; 296; on Thouvenel 
and De Tocqueville, quoted, 298; 
description of Napoleon III and 
JLuge"nie, quoted, 314-315; quoted, 
322-323; on Mexican schemes of 



Napoleon III, quoted, 305-306; on 
Confederate naval policy, quoted, 

Black Hawk War, 20 

Blaine, James G., on Judah P. Ben 
jamin, 157, 177 

Blair, Francis P., 430 

Blanc, Louis, 304 

Blessington, Lady, 314 

Blockade, Federal: object of Mason's 
abjurations in London, 271; as 
pects of international law re, 
272; principle of continuous voy 
age and doctrine of ultimate des 
tination accepted as precedent in 
international law, 275; France's 
acceptance of Russell's attitude 
on, 301; Mallory's fight on, 363- 

Bonap artists, sympathy for Union, 

Bonham, Governor, of South Caro 
lina, 429 

Bourbons, and United States, 303- 

Bragg, Captain, 95 

Bragg, Braxton, 329 

Breckinridge, John C., in Davis Cab 
inet, 387 

Brierfield, home of Jefferson Davis, 

. 40 51 
Bright, John: belief in debacle of 

American Union, 253; leader of 
English masses, 255; Lord John 
Russell's admiration for, 264 

British Navy, 256-257 

Brooks, Preston ("Bully") : attack on 
Charles Sumner, and defense by 
James Murray Mason, 237, 246- 

Brown, Albert Gallatin, and Nashville 
Convention, 49; cotton restriction- 
ist, 212 

Brown: John Brown's raid, 78 

Brown, Joseph Emerson: governor of 
Georgia, 337-342; contrasted with 
Vance, 342-343; devotion to state, 
347-349; hostility to Confed 
eracy, 350 et seq.; nullifies con 
scription, 352 et seq.; conscrip 
tion exemptions, 353 et seq.; and 
Georgia Militia, 358-362; 409; 
429; Stephens and, 425; 426 

Bruce, Sally, Mrs. James A. Seddon, 

Buchanan, President James, 79, 387; 
Slidell's enthusiasm for, 293 

Bull Run, Battle of, compared with 
battle of Valmy, 6; European 
opinion of, 113 ; effect in London 
an Confederate cause, 150; re 

ceipt of news of, in Richmond, 180- 
181, 307 

Bull Run, Second Battle of, 218 

Bullock, Captain James D., 370 and 
n., 374; and Confederate ship 
building contracts, 377-379, 383 ; 
quoted, 379-380; French ship 
building contracts, 381-386 

Bunch, Robert, 141; on Memminger, 
quoted, 192 

Burnside, capture of Roanoke Island, 

Burwell, William M., quoted, 108, 
116-117, 120, 121; 420 

Byron, Lord, and Lord John Russell, 

CALHOUN, JOHN" C.: Sectional South 
ern party plan, 74, 77; 189; and 
James Murray Mason, 244 

Campbell, Judge, on mountain dis 
tricts and Confederacy, 336; at 
Hampton Roads Conference, 430 

Campbell, Lord, 269 

Carlisle, Earl of, admiration of Mem 
minger, 190 

Cecil, Lord Eustace, 269 

Cecil, Lord Robert, 269 

Chamberlain, Joseph, and British de 
mocracy, 256 

Charleston Convention of 1860, 285 

Charlotte, consort of Maximilian, 400 

Chartres, Due de, in Federal army, 
253, 302 

Chase, as Union statesman, 3 

Cheeves, Langdon, 190 

Chestnut, James, 180 

Chestnut, Mrs. : quoted, 142-143 ; on 
Leroy P. Walker, quoted, 178 ; on 
capture of New Orleans, quoted, 
184; on James Murray Mason, 
quoted, 233-234, 235; opinion of 
James Murray Mason, 247 

Civil War: emphasis on statesman 
ship by North and military 
achievement by South, 3; relative 
military strength of North and 
South, 5-6; European opinion on, 
4; European belief in debacle of 
the Union, 252-257; military task 
of Union, 4-6; slavery and, 5455 ; 
economic grounds of, 55-56; first 
Battle of Bull Run, 180-181; Pen 
insular campaign, 183, 218; Mont 
gomery Convention, 100-104; Fort 
Sumter, 105-106; Davis policy, 
183; blockade on Southern ports, 
207, 210; cotton in, 207-215; mili 
tary situation after Chancel lors- 
ville, 227; disappearance of 
United States Navy after, 254; 



Southern destroyers of Union 
commerce in, 373-375; Hampton 
Roads Conference, 430-431 

Clark, Governor, of Mississippi, 356, 

Clay, Henry, 387 

Clay's Compromise, 77 

Cleveland, Henry, 424, 426-427 

Clingman, Thomas L., duel with Yan- 
cey, 142 

Cobb, Howell: as Georgia leader, 69- 
70; as Constitutional Unionist, 75 
et seq.; as Jacksonian Democrat, 
77; his love for the Union, 77; 
resignation from Buchanan's Cab 
inet, 79; 91; and Confederate 
Presidency, 96-99; and Joseph E. 
Brown, 357 

Cobb, Thomas R. R., on Montgomery 
Convention, 91; quoted, 92-95 ; 98; 

Cobden, Richard: opinion of James 
Murray Mason as "old slave 
dealer," 247; his belief in deba 
cle of the American Union, 253; 

Confederacy: geographic foundations 
of, 8; New-South elements of, 8- 
9; and State rights, 10-11; rea 
sons for failure of, 11, 58, 429-432; 
the Montgomery Convention, 85 et 
seq.; meeting in the United States 
Capitol, 87-89, 96, 159, 186; 
efforts toward European recog 
nition, 107, 139-152; commission to 
Mexico, 107, 117-138; Constitu 
tion, 100-104; and possibility of 
European recognition, 218-219; 
navy, construction of vessels in 
foreign countries, 220; mission 
of Mason in Great Britain, 267 
et seq.; territorial ambitions of, 
270; "Confederacy of the Cotton 
States," 86; cotton export policy 
of, 207-215; cotton shortage as 
basis of European recognition, 
208-215 ; belated desire to move 
cotton, 271; efforts of Lord John 
Russell toward recognition of, 
277-282; attack of envoys on Lord 
Russell, 280-281; attitude of 
French Foreign Secretary toward, 
298-301, 302; government of Na 
poleon III and, 302-323 ; inherent 
weaknesses of, 330; state gover 
nors and, 330 et seq,; dissentients 
within, 409; civilian attitude 
toward centra^ ^power, 414; 
Union area within boundaries 
of, 331 et seq.; cross purposes in, 
350 et seq. 

Confederacy, finance of: cotton in, 
188-215; liquid capital, 196-197; 
domestic 1 loan, 196-198; Er- 
1 anger loan, 216-232. See also 
Confederate money 

Confederate army, desertion in, 335- 

Confederate Congress, 418-419 

Confederate Constitution, 100-104 

Confederate money, 195-196, 197, 198- 

Conscription, Confederate: Georgia 
exemptions, 353-355; anti- admin 
istration governors and, 352 
et seq.; Joe Brown's Ten Thou 
sand, 358-362; effect on civilian 
population, 413 

Constitution, Federal: reverence of 
Jefferson Davis for, 32; 53; Ste 
phens and, 67-68 

Constitutional liberty, 421-422 

Constitutional Union: Stephens- 
Toombs-Cobb Coalition, 69-70, 
75, 78 

Contraband, principle of, 273 

Corwin, Thomas, United States Min 
ister in Mexico, 108; 118-138 

Cotton: demand for product, 26; Eu 
ropean reliance on Southern, 139- 
140; determination of Confed 
eracy not to ship, 207; as se 
curity for Erlanger loan, 216 
et seq.; restriction of supply, 
212-213; failure of Confederacy 
to use crop for financing war, 194, 
201-215; industry in France, 304; 
Mallory*s fight on Lincoln block 
ade, 363-386; failure of Confed 
eracy to regard as asset, 430 

Cotton barons, of Georgia and Mis 
sissippi delta, 25-26; 55-56^ 

Cotton belt, Southwestern: agricul 
tural methods in, 26-27; slave 
system, 27; economic and social 
aspects, 28; progress in states 
manship, 28 

Cotton famine in Europe, 208-210; 
unemployment in Great Britain 
and France, 218 

Cotton speculation, European, 219- 

Couronne, French ironclad, 317 

"Crackers," 332 et seq. 

Craven, Dr. John Joseph, 188; on 
D avis' s estimate on cotton value, 
quoted, 204-205 

Crimean War, ironclads in, 372 

Cushing, Caleb, 52 


Davia, George, in Davis Cabinet, 387 



Davis, Jefferson: and enlistment of 
negroes, 5; forebears, 12; birth 
place, 13; early life, 1418; ap 
pearance, 15, 18; education, 16- 
19; at West Point, 18-19; char 
acteristics, 18, 20; influence of 
early training on later political 
views and allegiances, 16-18, 
24; description of, by Varina 
Howell (Mrs. Jefferson Davis), 
38-39; his political ideas, 40-44; 
accomplishments and equipment, 
46-47; army life, 19-20; first 
marriage, 21-23, 31; second mar 
riage, 3340; quarrel with Joseph 
E. Johnston, 19; quarrel with 
Zachary Taylor, 21-23; retire 
ment and study, 24 et seg.; re 
tirement at Hurricane, 31-33, 40; 
and State rights, 41 ; political 
campaigns, 40; Member of Con 
gress, 42 ; in Mexican War, 42 ; 
as President, his interference in 
army matters, 42; not a modern 
man, 43; his worship of slavery, 
43; and Nashville Convention, 
49-50; defeat for Governorship of 
Mississippi, 50-51; Senator from 
Mississippi, 47; Member of Pierce 
Cabinet, 47; and Franklin Pierce, 
51-52; as Secretary of W ar > 52; 
position in Southern nationalism 
compared to that of Hamilton in 
development of Union, 25 ; and 
Southern nationalism, 45 et seq.; 
as representative of new South, 
52-56; his worship of Federal 
Constitution, 53; position of, on 
public questions, compared with 
that of Toombs, 74; in Pierce 
Cabinet, 78; and Unionism in Se 
cession areas, 78; and Montgom 
ery Convention, 85-95, $assim; 
qualities for Presidency, 88-89; 
as military man, 88-89; election 
as President of the Confederacy, 
95-100; and Yancey, 141-142; and 
Judah P. Benjamin, 174-181; loy 
alty to appointees, 185; and Ben 
jamin, in Roanoke crisis, 185; 
and Cabinet appointments, 185- 
187; at Fortress Monroe, 188; 
204; and Brooks attack on Sum- 
ner, 247; and Governors of 
States, 330-349; and the Navy 
in the Confederacy, 364; notice 
of inauguration of, in London 
press, 395 ; and suspension of writ 
of habeas corpus, 412-413; hos 
tility from within the Confeder 
acy, 416-432; and failure of 

Southern cause, 429-432; instruc 
tions to Stephens at Hampton 
Roads Conference, 431; final rally 
at African Church in Richmond, 
431-432; prisoner in Fortress 
Monroe, 432 

Davis, Mrs. Jefferson (Varina How- 
ell) : early life, 35-37; appearance, 
35; education, 35-36; influence of 
Judge Winchester, 36-37; meet 
ing with Jefferson Davis, 38; 
courtship and marriage, 39-40; 
and Judah P. Benjamin, 172; on 
friendship of Davis and Benja 
min, quoted, 176-177; quoted, 22, 

Davis, Joseph Emory, 14, 15, 17; as 
obscure maker of history, 33 ; 
his wealth, 29; as type of Mis 
sissippi planter, 29-30; his guard 
ianship of younger brother Jef 
ferson, 30-31; 31-33; 33-40; and 
Howell family, 34; and marriage 
of Jefferson Davis and Varina 
Howell, 37-40 

Davis Cabinet, 3; personnel of, 9; 
104106; ineffectiveness of first, 
178 ; changes in, in four years, 

Davis embargo. See Cotton 

Day, Jeremiah, letter from Benja 
min to, 163 

Dayton, William L., United States 
Minister to France, 146-147; 
226; United States Minister in 
Paris, 383 

"Deadening" trees, 27 

Declaration of Paris, 272, 274 

Delane, editor of London Times, and 
Trent affair, 252 

Desertion in Confederate army, 335- 

Deslonde, Mathilde, marriage to John 
Slidell, 290 

Diaz, Porfirio, 131 and n, 

Dickens, Charles, 264 

Dilke, Sir Charles, and British democ 
racy, 25 6 f 

Disraeli, Benjamin, comparison with 
Judah P. Benjamin, 155-156 

Doctrine of continuous voyage, 273 

Doctrine of ultimate destination, 272- 

Donoughmore, Lord, 268 

Douglas, Stephen A., 78 

Drayton, William, 190 

ERICSSON, designer of the Monitor, 

Erlanger, Baron, 220, 224, 225, 287, 




Er I anger, Emile, financial agent in 
Confederate shipbuilding contracts, 
382, 383; and The Index, 396 

Erlanger et Cie, intermediary in Con 
federate loan transaction, 220- 
232 passim 

Erlanger loan, 216-232 

Estrada, Guitterez de, 308, 320 

Eug6nie, Empress: and Mexico, 111- 
113; attentions to Slidell and his 
family, 283-284; and the Church, 
298; and Mexican schemes, 306; 
appearance, 314-315; and Thou- 
venel, 319 

Europe: diplomatic policy on "Amer 
ican question," 4 

European recognition, efforts of Con 
federacy toward, 107, 114 et seg. 
See also Confederacy 

FARRAGUT, DAVID, 370, 377 

Fillmore, President, 120 

Flahaut, Count de, 295 

Fleury, General, 313 

Florida, and Confederacy, 8 

Florida, 373, 374 

Foote, Henry Stuart, 50-51; on Judah 
P. Benjamin, 172; opinion of Sli 
dell, 285 

Forey, General, 307 

Forsyth, John, 108, 110; in Mexico, 
118-119; United States Minister 
in Mexico, 121 

Fort Pickens, Mallory and, 368-369 

Fort Sumter, 105-106 

France: Confederate efforts toward 
recognition by, 139-152^302-323; 
disposition to support British pre 
cedence in American policy, 302- 
303; general sympathy for Union, 
304; Napoleon III and Confeder 
acy, 305 <rf seq. 

Franklin, Benjamin: sale of tobacco 
in France, 203 ; 266-287 

Fredericksburg, 218 

French press, advocacy of Northern 
interest, 304 

Fugitive Slave Law, 78, 244, 245, 
246, 269 

GADSDEN, United States Minister in 

Mexico, 121 
Gadsden Purchase, 54 
Garrison, William Lloyd, compared 

with Stephens, 421, 422 
Georgia: and Confederacy, 8;^as 

pivotal state, $4; and Secession, 

341; conscription exemption in, 

Georgia Legislature: speeches an Un 

ion and disruption, by Stephens 
and Toombs, 80-84 

Gettysburg, Battle of, 230 

Gladstone, William Ewart: and Con 
federacy, 219; belief in debacle 
of American Union, 253 ; his plan 
of intervention in American Civil 
War, 257; 278, 279, 282 

Gloire, French ironclad, 317, 372, 375- 

Gorgas, General, on Judah P. Ben- 
j amin, quoted, 173 

Grant, Ulysses S.: as military leader, 
3; on Jefferson Davis, 42; com- 
paigns, 183 ; military progress, 
227; 321-322, 325, 335 

Great Britain; Confederate efforts 
toward recognition by, 139-152; 
belief in the debacle of the Amer 
ican Union, 252-257; democratic 
aspects in attitude toward Amer 
ican Civil War, 254-257; ad 
vance in democracy since 1861, 

Greeley, Horace, 86, 121 

Greg, Percy, London journalist em 
ployed on The Index, 398 

Greville, Charles, on Louis Napoleon, 
quoted, 314 

Grey, Sir Edward, and Civil War 
precedent in World War conduct, 

HABEAS CORPUS, suspension of writ of, 

412, 428-429 

Halstead, Murat, on John Slidell, 285 
Hamberger, H., and Erlanger loan, 


Hamilton, Alexander, 25, 58 
Hamilton, James, 190 
Hampton Roads Conference, 430-431 
Harrison, Mrs. Burton, on Judah P. 

Benjamin, quoted, 172 
Hay, John, description of Napoleon III, 

quoted, 315 

Hayne, Robert Young, 190 
Helper's Impending Crisis, 78 
Herbert, Sidney, quoted, 262 
Herndon, William H., Lincoln to, 

quoted, 64 
Hidalgo, 308 
Hill, Benjamin H., 409; quoted, 425, 

Hill, J. B., Confederate Senator, 356- 


"Hillbillies," 332 et teg. 
Holden, W. W., 346 
Holmes, General, 325, 329 
Hood,. Campaign in Eastern Tennes 
see, 360 
Hood's army, desertion in, 336 



Hortense, Queen, 295 

Hotze, Henry: Confederate publicity 
agent in London, on Erl anger loan, 
quoted, 226; 230; on British pol 
icy re Federal blockade, quoted, 
276; attack on Lord John Russell, 
quoted, 230-281; 390-399 

Houmas scandal, Slidell and, 292-293 

Howell, Varina. See Davis, Mrs. Jef 

Howell, William B., 34 

Howell, Mrs. William B. (Louisa 
Kempe), 34 

Hugo, Victor, and Napoleon III, 284; 
on Second Empire, 296 

Hunter, Robert M. T., 88; in Davis 
Cabinet, 186-187; at Hampton 
Roads Conference, 430 

Hurricane, estate of Joseph Davis, 
29, 30, 31 ; retirement of Jeffer 
son Davis at, 31-33; house party 
at, 37-40 

Independent, New York, article re 
Benjamin, quoted, 160-161 

Index, Confederate review in London, 
396 et seq. 

International law: Declaration of 
Paris, 272, 274; contraband, 273; 
Federal blockade, 272 et seq.; Lord 
John Russell and, 274-275; prin 
ciple of continuous voyage and 
doctrine of ultimate destination 
accepted as precedent, 275; ap 
plication in World War, 276 

tization of Slidell, quoted, 291 

Jackson, Stonewall, as military leader, 
3, 8 

James, Valley of the, 326 

Jecfcer, J. B., Swiss banker, ana rrench 
intervention in Mexico, 306 

Jefferson, Thomas, policy of peaceful 
coercion, 208 ; 324 

Jews, Sephardic, 154-156 

Johnson, Andrew, 331, 339, 367, 368 

Johnston, Joseph E.: as military 
leader, 3, 8; quarrel with Jeffer 
son Davis, 19, 177; on Confederate 
finance, 205; 325, 329; and Joe 
Brown's Ten Thousand, 359 

Johnston, Richard Malcolm, quoted. 

Joinville, Prince de, 302 

Jones, J. B., diarist, on Judah P. 
Benjamin, quoted, 177; on Mem- 
minger, quoted, 192-193 ; on Leroy 
P. Walker, 179; on news of Bull 
Run, quoted, 181; on Secretary 
Seddon, quoted, 328 

Jurez, Benito, President of Mexico, 
111, 116, 124 et seq. 


Kearsarge, 321, 375 

Kempe, Louisa (Mrs. William B. 

Howell), 34 

Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, 68 
Kossuth, 118 
Ku Klux Klan, 333 


Lairds shipyards at Liverpool, 377 
Lee, Richard, 30 
Lee, Richard Henry, 31 
Lee, General Robert E.: as military 
leader, 3, 8; enlistment of colored 
troops, 5; ancestors of, 24; at 
West Point, 19; preparations for 
invasion of Pennsylvania, 227; on 
desertion in Confederate army, 
335-336; 430 

Legitimists, French, sympathy for 
Union, 302 

Leon, Edwin de, Confederate pub 
licity agent in Paris, 390-393 

Leopold I of Belgium, 113, 400; let 
ter to Queen Victoria, on dissolu 
tion of American Union, quoted, 

Lhuys, Drouyn de, French Foreign 
Minister, 283 ; successor to 
Thouvenel as French Foreign 
Minister, 319, 320; 321 

Lincoln, Abraham: as civic leader, 3; 
forebears, 12; birthplace, 13; 
early life, 16; on Alexander H. 
Stephens, quoted, 64; to Alex 
ander H. Stephens, quoted, 57-58; 
and hypocrisy in politics, 64-65; 
inaugural address, 104-106; and 
Polk's Mexican policy, 121 ; and 
United States foreign policy, 147- 
148; and blockade of Southern 
ports, 210-211, 213-214; and 
French aspirations in Mexico, 
307; and suspension of writ of 
habeas corpus, 412-413 ; at Hamp 
ton Roads Conference, 430-431 

Lincoln blockade. See Blockade, Fed 

Lincoln-Douglas debates, 78 

Lincoln Government, France's inter 
est in, 303 

Lindsay, Sir Coutts, 269 

Livingston, Edward, 289 

Longstreet, General, as military 
leader, 8 

Lopez, Narciso, 118, 119 n. 

Louis XV, 295 



Louis XVI, and American Revolu 
tionary Cause, 303 

Louisiana, and Confederacy, 8 

Louisiana , 377 

Lyons, Lord, British Minister in 
Washington, 115; 145, 146, 148 

Stephen R. Mallory, 365 

Mallory, Stephen R., 9, 95; Secretary 
of the Navy in Davis Cabinet, 
104, 178, 324, 363-386; and Brooks 
attack on Sumner, 247; his view 
of Confederacy as a whole, 363; 
his effort to get cotton to Europe, 
363 ft seq.; origin and early life, 
365-366; apologia to President 
Johnson, 367-368; Fort Pickens 
affair, 368-369; and lack of ships, 
370-371; his sea policy, 369, 372; 
commission for ironclads, 375 it 

Mallory, Mrs. Stephen R. (Angela 
Moreno), 365-366 

Malmesbury, Lord, 268-269 

Manchester Guardian, 398 

Mann, A. Dudley: Confederate Com 
missioner in Europe, 107, 140-152, 
passim, 209-210, 270-271; and 
Lord Russell, 265 ; Commissioner 
to Belgium, 400; mission to the 
Vatican, 399-408 

Marchand, Colonel, 323 

Marcy, William L., 52 

Martin, Henri, 304 

Mason and Dixon's line, 331 

Mason, George, Virginia "cavalier," 

Mason, James Murray: antecedents, 
236-239; family and Virginia 
career, 239-240; arrogance, 240- 
241; opinions about, 233-235; con 
trasted with Slidell, 233; New 
England antagonism against, 244 
247; Charles Sumner's antagon 
ism toward, 245-247; Confederate 
envoy to England, 134, 233-257; 
Confederate agent in London, on 
Erlanger loan subscriptions, 224, 
225 ; in Erlanger loan transaction, 
233 ; defense of Bully Brooks, 237, 
246, 247; and Federal Constitu 
tion, 242-243; slavery worship, 
243-247; author of Fugitive Slave 
Law, 244, 245, 246; in Senate, 
244-247; seizure on the Trent, 
238, 247-250; effect of Trent af 
fair on his mission to Great Brit 
ain, 250-251; diatribe against, in 
London Times, 251-252; his un 
popularity in Great Britain, 253; 

and Lord John Russell, 264-267; 
hatred of Lord John Russell, 277; 
and Lord Palmerston, 265 ; and 
Erlanger loan, 228-229; in Lon 
don, 267-270; and Federal block 
ade, 271-277 ; contrast between his 
reception in London and Slidell's 
in Paris, 283 

Maurice, Sir Frederick, (Juoted, 6 

Maury, William Ballard, quoted, 
364 ^ 

Maximilian, and Mexico, 220, 305, 
308; and Slidell, 321; 383-384, 
386, 400 

Memminger, Christopher G., 9, 95; 
origin and early life, 188-190; 
Secretary of the Treasury in 
Davis Cabinet, 104, 178, 188-232; 
and Bank of South Carolina, 190; 
political career, 190-193; at Mont 
gomery Convention, 191-193 ; Pol 
lard and Rhett attacks on, 192- 
193 ; impossibility of reconciling 
his task with his ideas of sound 
finance, 193; and failure of Con 
federacy to raise money on cot 
ton, 204-206; and Erlanger loan, 

Mercier, M., French Minister in 
Washington, 115 

Merrimac, 377 

Mexican War, new South after, 44 
et seq.; constitutional effects of, 

Mexico: European designs upon, 112 
et seq.; France and, 111-113; 
Confederate diplomatic relations 
with, 107 it seq., 117-138; Ger 
man proposals to, in World War, 
132-133; imperialistic designs on, 
by Napoleon III, 305 et seq.; 
Maximilian Empire in, 320-322 

Miles, William Porcher, 234 

Miramon, President of Mexico, 306 

Mississippi, and Confederacy, 8; a 
composite of South, 24-25 ; and 
new South, 45 

Mississippi, 377 

Missouri Compromise, repeal of, 78 

Mocquard, Jean Francois, secretary 
to Napoleon III, 283 

Monitor, 377, 382 

Monroe Doctrine: and Mexican di 
plomacy, 110, 111, 112, 113; and 
French aspirations in Mexico, 
307; 322, 386 

Montgomery Convention, 85 et seq.; 
as birthplace of Confederacy, 89- 
90; Presidential Election, 95-100; 
Constitution, 100-104; effect on 
North, 105; 423 



Montgomery Government, states form 
ing, 8 

Moore, Tom, 263 
Moreno, Angela (Mrs. Stephen R. 

Mallory), 365-366 
Morning Post, London, Confederate 

propaganda in, 395 
Morny, Count de, 283, 294-296; his 

schemes and avarice, 305-306; 

313; and Slidell, 322-323; 382 
Motley, John Lothrop, on British 

attitude toward American Civil 

War, 255 
Murrah, Governor of Texas, against 

conscription, 355, 356, 429 
McClellan, General: campaigns, 183; 

Peninsular campaign, 218; 302. 
McKinley Bill, 344 
McLane, United States Minister in 

Mexico, 121 
McPhee, Captain, 23 

NAPOLEON I, and battle of Valmy, 6; 
261; 263 

Napoleon III: 110-111; and Mexico, 
111-113; intrigues of, 219; and 
Erlanger loan, 221; 261; and 
"apogee of Second Empire," 294; 
and American Civil War, 302- 
323; Mexico as influence in atti 
tude toward Confederacy, 305 et 
seq.; appearance and character 
istics, 314-315; and John Slidell, 
283 et seq.; interview with Slidell 
on proffered Confederate subsidy, 
314-318; American policy based 
on false assumption, 322; meeting 
with Slidell in exile, 323; 369; 
meeting with Slidell, 381; offer to 
build , ironclads for Confederacy, 
381-382; policy in American Civil 
War, 383; 391 

Nashville Convention, 49-50, 74; Cobb 
and^ 77 

Navy, displacement of wooden vessels 
by ironclads, 372 

Negroes, in Southern army, 5 

New Orleans, capture of, 184; effect 
of loss of, on Southern shipping, 
216-217; as refuge for young 
Northerners needing rehabilita 
tion, 289-290 

New York Tribune, 391 

Normandie, French ironclad, 317 

North, Lieutenant James EL. 375- 

North Carolina, and Confederacy, 8; 
and New South, 44-45 


Olmsted, Frederick Law, account of 

devastation in southwestern cot 
ton belt, 27 

Oregon disputes, 259-260 
Orleanists, sympathy for Union, 302 
Owsley, Prof. Frank L., quoted, 10-11; 
on cotton export policy of Con 
federacy, 214 

PAGE, WALTER HINES, and capture of 
American ships in World War, 

Palmerston, Lord: 218; and Trent af 
fair, 248, 250, 252; and Lord 
Russell, in efforts toward Confed 
erate recognition, 278; and Lord 
John Russell, in British politics, 
258-282; American policy, 259- 
263 ; worship of British Empire, 
260; hatred of slavery, 260; con 
servative attitude toward Na 
poleon III, 261-262 ; belief in deba 
cle of American Union, 253 ; and 
British intervention in American 
Civil War, 256; and Morning 
Post, 395 

Paris, Comte de, in Federal army, 
253; 302; history of Civil War, 

Pendleton, Louis Beauregard, 427 

Perry, Matthew Galbraith, 287 

Persigny, Count de, 283; 296-297; 
299; 313; and Slidell, 322; 

Pettus, Governor of Mississippi, 
against conscription, 355, 356 

Pickett, Colonel John T., Confederate 
envoy to Mexico, 107, 117-125, 

Pickett Papers, 137-138 

Pierce, Franklin, and Jefferson Davis, 
51-52; and Judah P. Benjamin, 

Pius IX, Pope, audience of A. Dud 
ley Mann with, 402-405; letter 
to Jefferson Davis, 405-408 

Polk, President, and invasion of Mex 
ico, 64-65 ; and Mexican War, 74 ; 

Pollard, Edward A., 86, 88; on Mera- 
minger, quoted, 192 

"Poor whites," 332 et seq. 

Port Hudson, Battle of, 230 

Postal system during the Civil War, 

"Potsdam Conference," 87-89 

Prentiss, Sergeant S., 34 

Press, British, Confederate propa 
ganda in, 394-399 

Preston, William Ballard, 322, 364 

Propaganda during the Civil War, 




RANDOLPH, GEORGE W., Secretary of 
War in Davis Cabinet, 324-326, 

Rappahannock, 321 

Reagan, John H., Postmaster General 
in Davis Cabinet, 104, 387-389 

Re*camier, Madame, and Louis Napo 
leon, 314 

Reconstruction era, Joseph E. Brown 
in, 362 

Reform Bill, British, of 1832, 254 

Republican Party, organization of, 78 

Rhett, Robert Barnwell, and Nashville 
Convention, 49 ; 53 ; 78 ; antag 
onism toward Memminger, 191- 
192; 338 

Richmond Examiner, 87 

Riddle, Dr., Postmaster of New Or 
leans, and Picfcett documents, 

Roebuck Resolution, 319-320 

Roosevelt, Theodore, 370 n. 

Rost, Pierre A.: Confederate Commis 
sioner in Europe, 107, 140-152, 
passim; Yancey mission to Eu 
rope, 270-271; 399-400 

Rouher, M,, French Minister of Ma 
rine, 283, 299; and Confederate 
shipbuilding contracts, 382, 383, 

Russell, Lord John: and Confederate 
Commission, 143-152; and Sew- 
ard's foreign policy, 144-150; 
213; nonintervention policy of, 
219; and Trent affair, 250; and 
Lord Palmerston, in British poli 
tics, 258-282; American policy, 
263-267, 277-282; his Napoleonic 
recollections, 263 ; and Byron, 
263; and Wordsworth, 264; and 
James Murray Mason, 264-267; 
and Federal blockade, 272-273; 
and doctrine of ultimate destina 
tion, 274-275 ; acceptance of prec 
edent in Federal blockade, 275- 
277; opinions re, 277-278; his 
efforts toward Confederate recog 
nition, 277-282; foreign policy, 
311; and Confederate ship con 
tracts, 377-378; 406 

Russell, William H.: of London 
Times, quoted, 119; quoted, 148; 
Times article on Bull Run, 150; 
on Judah P, Benjamin, quoted, 
153-154; on Leroy P. Walker, 
quoted, 178; on James Murray 
Mason, quoted, 234-235; descrip 
tion of SlidelPs New Orleans 
home, quoted, 290-291 

Russell of Killowen, Lord Chief Jus 
tice of England, 365 


San Jacinto, in Trent affair, 288 

Saturday Review, 398 

Schwab, John Christopher, on Er- 
langer loan, quoted, 231 

Scott, Sir Walter, 263 

Scott decision, Dred, 78 

Secession: Nashville Convention, 49- 
50; Jefferson Davis and, 50-51; 
Stephens and, 57-58; and Con 
federate Constitution, 100-104; 
Lincoln and, 105 

Secret organizations of mountain 
country, 333-334 

Seddon, James A., War Secretary in 
Davis Cabinet, 10, 326 et seq.; 
struggle with Governors, 330, 349; 
on Joe Brown's Ten Thousand, 
quoted, 359-360 

Seddon, Mrs. James A., 326-327 

Semmes, Raphael, quoted, 86 

Seward, William H.: as Union states 
man, 3; instructions to Corwin, 
quoted, 108; 115; 126; Secretary 
of State in Lincoln Cabinet, char 
acteristics and foreign policy, 
144-150; "Thoughts" to Lincoln, 
146; and Erlanger loan, 226-227; 
foreign policy of, 256; and Fed 
eral blockade, 273 ; and building 
of Confederate ships in British 
yards, 377; at Hampton Roads 
Conference, 430 

Shenandoah, 373 

Sherman, General, as military leader, 
3; in Georgia, 359-362; 427 

Shipbuilding, Confederate, contracts 
in Great Britain, 377-380; in 
France, 380-386 

Shroeder, Erlanger representative in 
London, 228 

Slavery: Jefferson Davis and, 53-55; 
Yancey and, 142; European opin 
ion of, as Civil War factor, 399 

Slidell, John: in Mexico, 118; of 
Louisiana, 169; and Benjamin, 
173; and Erlanger loan, 219-232; 
contrasted with Mason, 233, 235; 
and Brooks , attack on Sumner, 
247; seizure from the Trent, 247- 
250; effect of Trent affair on his 
mission abroad, 250-251 ; diatribe 
against, in London Times, 251- 
252 ; Confederate envoy to France, 
135; in Paris, 219 et seq., 283 et 
seq.; contrast between his recep 
tion in Paris and Mason's in 
London, 283-284; intrigues in 



Paris, 294-301; mission to France, 
302-323; popularity at court of 
Second Empire, 283-286; his po 
litical power, 284-285; appear 
ance, 286; contemporary opinion 
re, 284-287; birth and early life, 
287-289; marriage, 290; New 
Orleans home, 290-291; lack of 
high character as public man, 
291 ; President Jackson's stigmati- 
zation of, 291 ; absence of strong 
convictions on public issues, 291- 
292; career as political boss, 292- 
293 ; and Houmas scandal, 292- 
293; in Mexico, 293; and Thouv- 
enel, French Foreign Secretary, 
298-301 ; and schemes of Napoleon 
III in Mexico, 308, 309; "wedge- 
driving" policy in Franco-British 
relations, 310 et seg.; and British 
policy, 310; proposed bribery of 
France, 311-314; interview with 
Napoleon III on proffered subsidy, 
314-318; end of usefulness as 
diplomat, 320-323; meeting with 
Napoleon III in exile, 323 ; and 
Fort Pickens, 368; meeting with 
Napoleon III, 381; and ship con 
tracts, 382, 383; and De Leon, 

Slidell, Matilda, marriage to young 
Erlanger, afterward Baron, 220, 

Smith, Brigadier General Gustavus, 
in Davis Cabinet, 326 

Smith, Sydney, quoted, 264 

South: and Confederacy, 7; states 
manship in, 7; and constitution 
of the United States, 7; ante 
bellum, new type in, 25-26, 28; 
new, after Mexican War, 44 et 

South Carolina, and Confederacy, S; 
and new South, 44-45 

Southern "aristocracy," 8-9 

Southern nationalism, Jefferson Davis 
and, 24-25; 45 et seq. 

Southern Pacific Railroad, 54 

Spence, James, English adviser of 
Confederacy, in Erlanger loan 
transactions, 229 

Spinning industry in Great Britain. 

Spottswood Hotel, Richmond, 180-181 

Standard, London, 398 

Stanton, as Union statesman, 3 

State militia in Confederacy, 358-362 

State rights: and failure of Con 
federacy, 10, 430, 432; Jefferson 
Davis and, 41, 54; under Federal 
Constitution, 68-69 

State sovereignty, and war, 347-348 
States, Governors of, and Confeder 
acy, 330-349 

Stephens, Alexander H., 8 ; life and 
character, 58 et seq.; opponent 
of Secession, 57-58; and State 
sovereignty, 64; and Lincoln, re 
hypocrisy in politics, 64-65; his 
inner life, 65-67; his worship of 
Federal Constitution, 67-68 ; ad 
miration for Webster, 67-68; and 
State rights, 68-69; as Georgia 
leader, 69-70; and Constitutional 
Union party, 75 et seq.; refuta 
tion of Toombs's disunion argu 
ments, 81-84; and Montgomery 
Convention, 85; 94, 95; and Con 
federate Presidency, 97-99; and 
Folk's Mexican policy, 121; on 
cotton and Confederate finance, 
205; 338; his fanaticism, 420- 
422; compared with Garrison, 
421; hostile critic of Davis ad 
ministration, 409, 415-422; a 
Union man at heart, 422-423 ; rift 
between Davis and, 424-425; the 
inspiration of Joe Brown, 425; 
"peace resolutions," 427-428; at 
Hampton Roads Conference, 430- 
431; and doctrine of State rights. 

Stephens, Linton, brother of Alex 
ander H., 415; 426 
Stokes, Anson Phelps, re Benjamin 

expulsion from Yale, 163 
Stowell, Lord, and "arc of circum- 

vallation," 276 

Stuart, Jeb, as military leader, 3, 8 
Sumner, Charles: attack of Bully 
Brooks on, 237, 246-247; antag 
onism toward James Murray 
Mason, 245-246; his invective 
against Mason, 246-247; descrip 
tion of Lord John Russell, 264; 
opinion of John Slidell, 285 
Sutherland, Duke and Duchess of, 


Tapia, Don Santiago, 129 

Taylor, John, of Caroline, 326 

Taylor, Sarah Knox, marriage to Jef 
ferson Davis, 21-23; 30-31 

Taylor, Zachary, 30; quarrel with 
Jefferson Davis, 21-23 

Tehantepec Railway, 292-293 

Tennessee, and Confederacy, 8 

Texas, and Confederacy, 8 

Thiers, 304 

Thouvenel, ldouard Antoine: French 
Foreign Secretary, 283, 297-298; 



Interview with Slide!!, 298-301; 
detestation, of slavery, 302; Eu 
ropean policy, 302; 313; opposi 
tion to Eugenie's Papal policy, 319 

Times, London, Confederate propa 
ganda in, 395 

Tocqueville, De, 298, 303 

Toorabs, Robert, 53; as Georgia 
leader, 69-70, 71-75 ; his fatal gift 
of epigram, 73; position of, on 
public questions, compared with 
that of Davis, 74; and Constitu 
tional Union party, 75 et seg.; 
as disruptionist, 79; speech in 
Georgia Legislature, 80-81 ; dis 
cussion, 81-84; 95; and Confed 
erate Presidency, 96, 103; in 
Davis Cabinet, 104; and Lincoln's 
policy, 106; Confederate Secre 
tary of State, 107; and Napoleonic 
schemes in Mexico, 115 et seg.; 
and Mexico, 132-133; European 
diplomacy, 139-152, passim; as 
Secretary of State, 185; at Mont 
gomery Convention, 192; and 
Houmas scandal, 292; and Brooks 
attack on Sumner, 247; 338; hos 
tile critic of Davis Administra 
tion, 416-429 

Trent, British steam packet, seizure 
of Mason and Slidell from, by 
Captain Wilkes, 247-250 

Trent affair, 278-279, 288 

Uncle Tom's Cabin, 78 

Union, France's interest in, 303-304 

United States mercantile marine be 
fore the Civil War, 254 

United States Navy, in Lincoln block 
ade of Southern ports, 213-214 

"Up-country," hostility of, to Pied 
mont and Tidewater, 334 et seq. 

VALMY, battle of, compared with Bull 
Run, 6 

Van Buren, Martin, and Slidell, 284; 

Vance, Zebulon Baird: Governor of 
North Carolina, 337; 342; con 
trasted with Brown, 342-343; de 
votion to State, 347-349; hostility 
to Confederacy, 350 et seq.; and 
conscription exemptions, 355; 409 

Vicksburg, Battle of, 230 

Victoria, Queen: and Trent affair, 
249; and Lord Palmerston and 
Lord John Russell, 258; 309 

Virginia: and Confederacy, 8; states 
manship in, 26; exhaustion of to 
bacco lands, 26; and new South, 

44-45; in Confederate Adminis 
tration, 327-328 

WADE, BEN, on Judah R Benjamin, 

Walewska, Countess, 294 

Walewski, Count, 283, 294-, 296, 298 

Walker, Leroy P.: in Davis 'Cabinet, 
104; as Secretary of War in 
Davis Cabinet, 178-182; and cot 
ton in Confederate finance, 203, 
206, 207; and Joseph E. Brown, 

Walker, Robert J., and Erl anger loan, 

Walpole, Spencer, and Lord Russell's 
attitude toward Southern recog 
nition, 277-278 

Warrior ; British ironclad, 372 

Washington, H. A., on friendship of 
Davis and Benjamin, quoted, 176 

Watts, Governor of Alabama, against 
conscription, 355-356; 409; 429 

Webster, Daniel, and Nationalism, 62; 
Stephens's admiration for, 67-68 

Welles, Gideon, as Union states 
man, 3 ; and Lincoln blockade, 
213-214; on James Murray Mason, 
quoted, 233 

Wellington, Duke of, 88 

Westbury, Lord, 282 

West Virginia, secession from Con 
federacy, 331 

Whiskey Boys, 333 

Wigfall, Senator, of Texas, at Rich 
mond, 180; on Memminger, 193 

Wilkes, Captain Charles, seizure of 
Mason and Slidell from the Trent, 
247-250; boyhood friend of Sli 
dell, 288 

Wilson, Woodrow, loyalty to ap 
pointees, 185 

Winchester, George, as friend and 
teacher of Mrs. Jefferson Davis 
(Varina Howell), 36-37, 38 

Wise, John A., 324 

Wordsworth, William, and Lord John 
Russell, 264 

World War: Civil War precedent in 
international law, 276-277; sea 
policy in, 373 

Wyke, Sir Charles, 129 

YALE COLLEGE, Judah P. Benjamin at, 

Yancey, William Lowndes: and Nash 
ville Convention, 49; 53; 95; 
Confederate Commissioner in Eu 
rope, 107; Confederate Commis 
sioner to Great Britain, 140-152; 

4-52 INDEX 

influence in South, 141-142; and ZAMACOMA, 124 

slavery, 142-143 ; as Commis- Zimmerman, German Foreign Secre- 
sioner, 207, 209-210; opinions re, tary, and German proposals to 

234-; mission to Europe, 270-271; Mexico in World War, 132-133 

399 Zuloaga, 111; 116, 117 






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